The scene is northeastern Japan, aerial photos before - property, estate housing, industry, transportation, roads, aircraft, sea craft.
Then move the cursor from right to left and there is after: some outlines remain, but a brown sludge has crept even up the hillsides, obliterating shape and action, obliterating life. A cracking, broken land, and a crashing wild water from cracks below the ocean.
This is one great blow in our story. Other blows invade the earth and our habitation; Peru, Haiti, the great tsunami in Thailand and Burma, Volcanoes in Java, recurrent elsewhere like strokes and heart attacks in Gaia, our “mother.” Hurricanes and tornadoes, floods, drought, spotting the earth like pox and running sores. If some of these miseries are distant, misery cannot be turned off like television: the hand and mind that twists the nob or touches the button has other hands and and minds and hearts, close by, in suffering, seemingly beyond endurance.
For the apparently meaningless suffering in nature around us is compounded by suffering from within us. The images of earthquake and tsunami loss in Japan are compounded by the destructiveness of the nuclear furnaces, and all these photo records remind us of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to mention the non-nuclear immolation of human populations in Tokyo and other Japanese cities, of Chinese cities, of Russian cities - Stalingrad, for one - of Dresden and everywhere in Germany, of London and Coventry, of the World War 2 holocausts, of Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and mounting global genocides.
We need not be poets to “always hear Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near” As I write, I am deeply troubled as members of my family and friends grieve for one of us whose life-deadline is all but known this spring. And in my Christian community with many families in it we are on tenterhooks that one of our number is afflicted by a terrifying and almost unknown disease, testing the marvels of medical science to their limit. And a close friend is distant through ministry to a self-disrupting family.
Many are called to that.
And so, I pray.
Common Prayer suggests:
Deliver us O God, from civil strife and violence, war and murder _ Good Lord, deliver us.
From evil and mischief, from sin, from all spiritual blindness, pride, hypocrisy, envy, hatred, malice; from all want of love, from false teaching, from hardness of heart.
From earthquake and tempest, drought, fire and flood
An almost comprehensive wish list. But: what is the mystery of life and death, what is the mystery or prayer. To whom do we pray?
One secret is in the death-dealing earthquake, fire and flood. Scientists suggest that the very beginning of organic life was made possible in the furnace of just such an eruption of the earth’s interior where there is a grinding together of tectonic plates, such as causes fire, quake and tidal wave. Other sciences suggest that the very existence of our Earth from whose air we breathe, whose water and food we drink and eat, whose elements we can turn to productive use, comes about through narrow margins within which the required needs of our life, our respiratory life, our mammalian life, our human life are given to us. Faith believers attribute these gifts to God, and many forms of belief, especially the Christian, attribute our origins and our destiny to an ultimate Creator of the processes of evolution, Creator of all those events and conditions which by necessity and chance contribute to our existence and fulfillment.
Like Tolkien’s hobbit we gave been given as treasure an authority over ourselves and our lives, the cost of which is to take the closed and dangerous ring of misused power and cast it back into the creative furnace from which all our authenticity and creativity come.
In psychological language we must illuminate the shadow which is evil unless understood and seen as part of us.
We must accept that the cost of our existence is paid for in human, animal, and geological suffering, and the prize that is to be won is: self-control, self-offering and responsible unity with our environment. We must look to create harmony at all levels, and, while limiting some freedoms, give greater freedom to humanity and cosmic nature.
My prayer is: thanksgiving and love to a Creator, one we believe suffers along with us, to forge a new and wonderful reality. Thanks that through those margins of chance and necessity we have been blessed; thanksgiving for the symbolic cup of blessing which prepares us to change, a blessing we are called to partake of and be part of. Thanks that we may find faith through understanding.
For Meditation - Lent 3
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such.
whether he think too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself abus’d, or disabus’d;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man, 1733