Bad luck seems to trail me. In my three decades on earth, I've experienced a host of small disasters. Heading up the tally: one house fire, one hurricane, one knockdown, dragout robbery in the jungle, one hospitalization abroad for severe illness. (Three of which took place in a single year. 2004 was rough.)
Now I can add a tsunami evacuation to the tally. It is tempting to chalk another mark into my book of minor tragedies and call it a day, but one look across the pond to Japan proffers a quick reality check. In the aftermath of the tsunami that almost was, nightly news broadcasts have presented an unimaginably grim picture of what could have been: entire villages, wiped away without a trace. Destruction, total and complete.
The other day I received a copy of a letter of condolence a friend of a friend, Jan, penned to an acquaintance in Japan.
For Jan, the tsunami served as a reminder of the impermanence of all things, and the primacy of change, change and more change. This, the cycle of things since forever: life willing itself into existence and then being wiped out by cataclysmic destruction, whether ice age or drought, grinding subterranean plates or mountaintops that bubble hotly over.
And as the old ways of being disappear, new ones emerge to take their places, and we move forward.
But in the modern world, Jan points out, things are different. We have the self-awareness to fear potentialities, and we also have front row seats to the action when disaster does strike. Words on paper are powerful things, but it becomes almost impossible not to viscerally react to live television feed of a black, monstrous wave washing away entire chunks of civilization in one fell swoop.
Everything upon the earth flows and then ebbs, even the mightiest, most destructive of tides. They may slip silently back or they may wipe the world clean in their receding, but, eventually, every single thing does wane.
Our fears, too, ebb and flow like waves. In good times, the thought of OK'ing city expenditures in the thousands or even millions to prepare for something as nebulous as an earthquake or tsunami is difficult to abide. In times of tragedy, the inclination flips, and we're liable is to perch ourselves atop towering ramparts, to start at the slightest rumble, a constant fearful eye turned toward the water.
Ultimately, the question becomes how best to prepare ourselves for possible disaster without letting fear of cataclysmic potentialities direct our lives. Cannon Beach city staff and emergency personnel are is working mightily to strike such a balance as they cultivate a comprehensive response strategy. The answers aren't all forthcoming, but big ideas abound, and I'd encourage you to educate yourself on the options the city is exploring and to weigh in during the months ahead. Not sure where to start? Check out our tsunami coverage on page 3 and make your voice heard at the Cannon Beach Emergency Preparedness Forum April 20.
Perhaps in these uncertain times we'd all do well to take a cue from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, "He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear."