A week ago, Japan, and arguably the whole of humanity, was rocked by a devastating earthquake and tsunami that captured the attention of people from around the world. In a sense, this tragedy is yet another reminder us of just how fragile we are. In the days since this disaster struck, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this event has lessons for us as a society and a species. I believe it’s possible for positive things to come out of disasters and this post is about looking at the potential for good in the presence of untold suffering.

The support has been substantial in the aftermath of this disaster, with companies and relief organizations stepping forward to help with monetary support, supplies, volunteers, etc. Even Governments from around the world have pledged support, particularly in the efforts to contain the nuclear emergency that has elevated the level of concern during this past week. This type of coming together is encouraging to see, and it shows what we are capable of when we truly want to help others who are suffering.

Togetherness

I believe that people that have been affected in Japan need our positive thoughts as much as our donations of time and money. Some people are not in a position to donate, but they can still help by holding positive thoughts and not just focusing on the devastation and suffering. There are stories of unbelievable bravery and triumphs of the human spirit in the midst of the ruins. These stories can bring us closer together and allow us to share our positive energy and spirit with those halfway around the world that need our support.

One of the biggest lessons in this, for me at least, is that no matter how clever we think we are or how strong we build things, we are no match for the planetary forces that are completely beyond our control. It seem so obvious, but there is evidence all around us that we sometimes choose to ignore this principle. Humans have a way of filtering out information that is uncomfortable to process and we focus on what we want to believe instead.

I’m clearly all for positive thinking; in fact it’s a hallmark of my existence. However, I also believe that we must be mindful of the interconnectedness of things when we are making choices on how to live our lives and how we build our society. In other words, we cannot ignore the relationship we have with the biosphere in the name of progress, economic growth, safety, security, convenience, etc. Nature has its way of reminding us from time to time that we don’t get to pick when or where highly disruptive disasters will occur.

So, what’s the point? I believe we have a chance to step back and take a look at this from a much broader perspective. This is not an isolated incident. History shows us that these disasters tend to repeat themselves with little or no warning. I think we can start to make the shift to living more harmoniously with our fellow man and with the Earth that supports all 6.5 billion of us.

Here in America, we tend to tune out and go shopping when things get bad. It’s like we are racing toward a cliff, with increased speed as we go. Even so, I’m optimistic that we can change our course, but I think it is going to take a lot of inward looking to get there. That means all of us.

We have certainly shown that it’s possible to come together and rally to help our fellow humans who are suffering. The tools we have available to learn and grow together are unprecedented in human history. But we must be continually mindful of how we are all part of a much larger planetary system. The Japan earthquake didn’t happen ‘over there’ to ‘them’ – it happened here, to us. We are all together in this, and we all play a role in figuring out what to do next.

What do you think? Can disasters like this help us chart a new course together?

By the way, if you are in a position to donate, here is a great article from Time magazine on organizations that are helping in Japan.

 

Photo: iStock Photo