Saturday, January 23, 2010

For whom were you weeping?


For the past nine days as people were pulled alive or dead from the rubble following the devastating earthquake in Haiti and its aftermath, we have been unwilling to speak. It seemed the most respectful thing to do was to abandon the usual themes of this journal and simply be silent. 

We have ridden a roller coaster of emotions. We cried when watching the interview with the young nursing student who had to drink the blood of those who were dying nearby under rubble so she could stay alive despite her crushed skull. We were angry when we saw our government, in whom we had invested such hope only one year ago, repeat the same scenes we had witnessed in New Orleans, landing combat troops in the place of doctors, in fact, keeping planes with doctors and nurses circling over the airport, or diverted to the Dominican Republic 3 days distant by land, so that the United States could land 2000 troops to point their guns at poor black people who only want water.

“We have had five patients in Martissant health center die for lack of the medical supplies that this plane was carrying,” said Loris de Filippi, emergency coordinator for the MSF’s Choscal Hospital in Cite Soleil. “I have never seen anything like this.”

We had. It was a Superdome deja vú moment.

We were disgusted when we saw the stupid comments of newsers, pundits and bloggers that the real danger was rioting, the Devil, or convicts loose in the street, even though 80 percent of those imprisoned by the puppet government were never charged of a crime, many having been champions of democracy sent to rot in indefinite detention after the most-recent US organized coup d’etat in 2004. Why has Haiti rioted in the past? That’s why. This is a proud country, one in which survivors who are extracted from the rubble after a week with broken bones poking through their skin, or crushed skulls, sing joyfully as their stretchers are carried away.

Positive action is the best therapy for our emotions, much better than casting blame, and we have been supporting Jan Lundberg’s call to fast and donate the money saved from buying food, the music benefit being put on by The Farm and others for organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières, and the efforts of small and nimble aid groups like Plenty to slide through bottlenecks and get the aid where it is most needed.

In our silence, meditating on the depths of horror, and what it may foretell of the kind of a world we are leaving to our grandchildren, we were taken back to a Joseph-Campbell-like lecture by Alan Watts on the mythology of Hinduism that we first heard in 1966 (now released on CD and podcast). Alan Watts:

When Narada came to Vishnu and said, “What is the secret of your Maya (illusion of separateness)?” Vishnu took him and threw him into a pool. And the moment he fell under the pool he was born as a princess in a very great family, and went through all the experiences of childhood and being a little girl, finally married to a prince from another kingdom and she went to live with him in his kingdom.

And they were in tremendous prosperity, and palaces and peacocks and all that sort of thing, then suddenly there was a war, and their kingdom was attacked and utterly destroyed, and the prince himself was killed in battle. And so he was cremated, and she, as a dutiful wife, was about to throw herself, weeping, on the funeral pyre and burn herself, an act of sadhi or self-sacrifice, when suddenly, Narada woke to find himself being pulled out of the pool by his hair.

And Vishnu said, “For whom were you weeping?”

Put slightly differently, by that ol’ Hindu scholar Garth Brooks,

“Yes my life is better left to chance;
I could have missed the pain but I'd have had to miss the dance”

This does not mean that we should ignore suffering, or cease in our efforts to alleviate it, only that we should recognize that suffering exists, is unavoidable, and this, too, will pass. How we behave, in this knowledge, matters. That is a lesson we all can learn from those victims, pulled from the rubble, singing.
 

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