Friday, January 15, 2010

Bestirred, Not Shaken


click on photos unless you fear heights
Leon up the mast

"A man of understanding has lost nothing,
if he has himself."
Michel de Montaigne

Working up high

"A desk is a dangerous place
from which to watch the world."
John le Carre`

But don't forget to look down too!

"Everybody gets so much information all day long
that they lose their common sense."
Gertrude Stein


The nations gather on the tarmac.
Lines of French officials in their distinctive uniforms,
pass search equipment hand to hand.

Look, there are the Chinese beneath a waving red flag.

Patient rescue dogs survey the scene with their intelligent faces.

The nations have landed in dusty Port-au-Prince.

Here one is obligated to genuflect to finance
and mention that Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, even though the recent earthquake deftly demonstrates
the limitations of status, money, and the other talismans we rely on
to protect us from the unknown.

Uncertainty stubbornly remains the default condition of human life anyway -
The presidential palace, and the cathedral are largely rubble,
along with tens of thousands of more humble dwellings.

Bodies line the streets.

The dead and dying remain pinned under debris.

Asked if there was the danger of unrest, one Haitian said:
"This was no one's fault. Yes there is sometimes political or social anger here, but this is a time when all of us must help one another."

Recently I read a piece in the New Yorker that discussed the role
"elite panic" played in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
Initially, as described in virtually all disaster studies,
people assisted and comforted one another heroically.
But in Katrina, those in charge (police, officials) fled the scene.
Response from the outside was hamstrung by bureaucratic procedure,
but also by an outsize concern for security issues.

By fearing disorder, those who should be expected to "pitch in"
brought it about through their own delay.

This very disconnect of those "in the bubble,"
the "elites"
is a very telling thing.

Their distinction between us and them is the rot at the root of our system.

One reason that I cannot work in the corporate world, or down at the legislature, is my egalitarian sensibility.
Every person is of value,
I regard each person as a fellow on this journey
with warm, polite informality.

The obvious preening self-regard and self-seriousness of some seems a species of original sin to me. While I am friendly, I am not deferential. How could I ever be a courtier?

Yes, disaster teaches us what really matters.
The ways we think about
and treat each other
are revealed to be of bed rock importance
when the shaking stops.

So appreciate your own un-shaken world today
your home
your loved ones
your town.

Even if covered in snow
there is incredible warmth there.

And God bless the Haitian people.
(I know She is!)

And a Warm Aloha here for
YOU! cloudia