Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No. We Can't Understand.

I want to say a few more things about Haiti and how really, there IS no way we can take in a disaster of such magnitude. Our human brains aren't set up for this sort of processing. We can focus on the image of a few dead or dying, we can think of some mothers and their children. We can think about and process a school being crumbled, a hospital, but really- can we imagine what it sounds like, looks like, feels like there in Haiti, right now?
As many as 100,000 dead? And how many injured would that mean? Or still buried?
Are you watching the news? Is there live footage? I don't know because I'm not watching. I can't and it doesn't do any good.

I am the Queen of Guilt. The Mother of Guilt. The Font and Sea of Guilt.
But I am drawing the line at feeling that I should be doing something right now. There is nothing I can do, physically, to help. I am not going to get on a boat or a plane. I am not going to go there and start digging. I am not going to go there and hand out water or food or patrol the streets or try to treat the injured. I am not.

In the entire history of humans on this planet there have been disasters. There have been earthquakes and storms and tsunamis and plagues and droughts and floods and wars and every sort of horrific and terrible events, both man-made and natural. And up until a few hundred years ago, there was no way that I, here, would have heard about that, there. No matter what it was. And I think that's why our brains can't process this sort of information. We are left with a horrible feeling of helplessness and yes, guilt, because here we are, our children safe, our tummies full, our homes and schools and hospitals intact, our roads and services functioning the way they should and why? Why are we so lucky and some so very unfortunate?

Well, crazies like Pat Robertson say it's because there is evil. That Haiti made a pact with the devil. Truly. Check it out. He said it.

But you and I know that's insane and that's not it at all. The devil no more did this to Haiti than God did. And we all know too, that disaster can strike anywhere. There could be a hurricane here this summer that wipes the place where I live off the map. There could be an earthquake where you live or our major power sources could somehow be cut off and hell, most of us would die if that happened. No food, no electricity, no clean water.

But we can't live in constant fear that it will happen to us any more than we can feel guilt that it is happening to others. We can't live like that.
We can feel deep sorrow. We CAN go and help if that's what we do. If we're hooked up to an agency that has the tools and resources to do that. We can donate money. Here's a great page I found from Dooce's blog to help you start to figure out where and how to donate.
We can cherish our own good fortune, our children, our families, our homes, our comfort and wealth more fiercely. We can remember what's important.

But we cannot take it all upon ourselves. We cannot let it crush us, trying to fathom the depths and meanings of the suffering. There are good, educated, trained people who are already there, helping. There are organizations and agencies who know what they're doing and who are doing it to help.

So try, sweet people, not to fall into despair. It won't help Haiti any more than stopping at a wreck and gawking will help the injured, the dying, the dead.

I don't even know why I'm writing all of this down. I just think that perhaps we all get so caught up in the horror of disaster and then we have no where to put our anxieties, our transferred panic, our feelings of helplessness and it does nothing but make us sicker, less able to take care of what is in front of us, less able to deal with our own lives and that serves no purpose at all.

Donate if you can. Watch if you must.
But let us remember that although yes, we are all part of this human community, there are times when it is appropriate to try and stay calm and just love our own part of it all the more, appreciate it all the more.

That is what I'm going to try and do. I will process what I can. I will not go crazy trying to figure out the whys and wherefores of human suffering. I will not cast blame, I will not feel guilty. There is nothing I could have done to prevent this, there is no reason that I know of that it happened.
It just did.
Really bad shit really does happen. On the other side of the world, on the other side of the block, on the other side of that wall.
Some of the things we can do something about right then, as it happens. And we should if we can.
Some of the things, we can't do diddly-shit about. And we need to know the difference because our brains, if they see it, even on TV, think we should be able to do something. Our sweet, helping human brains. I am not saying we shouldn't be compassionate or sad or prayerful or generous or knowledgeable about what's going on in Haiti. I am not saying that at all. But I think we need to remember that the suffering in Haiti has been going on for a very long time. This is a sudden and dramatic and different sort of suffering but if we have been able to sleep without knowing of that other suffering, it's not going to change anything to stay awake and worry about this one.

Do you know what I mean? Let us comfort ourselves in the fact that we live in a world where there are many, many people who can and do help others during disasters of this scale. We pay taxes to support some of them. And that when people need help, usually others are there to offer it. It may not be you or me today, but it may be tomorrow. We are good people, most of us. We want to help. And we will do what we can but we cannot go insane despairing over what we can't do.

That's all. Hug your babies, hug your sweeties. Don't drown in the world's great troubles. It doesn't help them and it sure doesn't help you. Accept what you have with grace and with gratefulness. That's all you have to do sometimes after you've done everything else you can.
Accept. That's the hardest thing to do.
And sometimes, it's the only thing we can do.


  1. I can go hug the cat :) If I could find him, that is...

    But yeah. I know what you mean--sometimes the weight of the world literally feels like it's on our shoulders and as you said, we can't REALLY process large-scale disasters that don't happen to us, and that have never happen to us. Some of us can no more imagine what this is like than we can imagine the holocaust.

    Mother nature is a powerful thing, and any one of us can fall victim to happenstance. The best we can do is work hard, and work hard to touch those in our communities and our lives in whatever capacity we can. We can't make everyone's life better, but we can make one person's life better just by being in it.

  2. That was a real comfort tonight...I just let out a long breath and I really appreciated that. Thank you Ms. Moon!

  3. Pat Robertson is such a tool.

    If I had loads of money, this is one thing I would spend it on.. I would fly there immediately and help pick people up off the streets. Dig them out. That's just the rescuer in me though... (Did you hear that lottery? I NEED you.) But I obviously do not possess that type of cash.

    So here I am. Here with you.

  4. ps- your icy pic is amazing.

  5. Beautiful words to describe something so tremendously horrible.

  6. Thank you. It's hard to know where to put all of the feelings of overwhelm for the world sometimes. I'll mold it into gratitude and keep it right here.

  7. Yup. I was thinking today how the people of Haiti have literally been living miserable lives (at least material ones) for the duration of their country's existence and while we're aware of it, we don't donate millions and millions of dollars each and every day to alleviate it. It's so puzzling what quick and grand catastrophe does to the human psyche. It's sort of like that conflict with crisis and compassion fatigue. Strange and human.

    You give good advice. Love to you and yours.

  8. There's a really good radio show with Krista Tippett called Speaking of Faith. She posted this old program in response to the Haitian tragedy:

  9. That guy drives me nuts! I am so glad I do not have a TV. There are crazies like him all over the airwaves.

  10. I really understand what you're saying in this post.

  11. I knew I could come here and find some solace.
    You articulated my similar thoughts so so well.

  12. SJ- We do what we can.

    Roserain- I'm glad.

    AJ- I don't even know why I mentioned him. He is a tool.

    Tamarra- Sometimes all you have is words.

    Lisa- Not a bad place.

    Elizabeth- Thanks for the link. I like that show a lot.

    Angie- And the internet, too.

    Jill- Good.

    Deb- I hope so.

    Caroline- Thank YOU.

  13. I like the way you sorted that out.
    I can't watch either. Or I won't.

  14. Yes, Ms. Moon

    [said with the utmost respect]

  15. I have no words today.

    I keep banging that out on the keyboard

    I have no words

  16. Elizabeth's link is a good one, it doesn't take the sorrow out of what happened, but puts more perspective on why them, why there, and it's very scientific - geologic, tectonic and insightful. The same things that make that part of the world unstable also make it very fertile. I am reminded of visiting the travelling Pompei exhibit with my family. Such a recurring, horrifying display of the forces of nature we can never control. Sobering and perspective inducing, just like the audio link above.

  17. My cousin's in-laws have a charity in place and have been going to haiti for over 20 years. They have built a clinic.

    They landed there Tuesday. They are unharmed, but their clinic which serves 1000s that would otherwise have NO medical care is heavily damaged. Their website can be viewed at

  18. Yes, it's an incomprehensible devastation. Those poor people! What a nightmare for their friends and relatives who wonder and worry about them, too.

    Why does Pat Robertson even have a show? There's a circle of Hell reserved just for him. There are some instances I wish that existed.

  19. We can all give. Money (even a little), time, outgrown clothing. This disaster will last a long time, we'll have opportunities to remember and help.

  20. I'm struggling with the guilt. I cry a lot. I can't watch the news. I just can't wrap my heart around it. And it hurts.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.