I walked into the break room at work last night to find one of the other doctors in my group in tears. She has family in New Orleans, older parents and four grown children. Two of the children got out safely, but the fate of the parents and the other children is unknown. New Orleans was a large city. People everywhere have connections to it. Like WWII, it is so large that the horror there may touch almost everyone, anywhere in the nation.
I drove home this morning, at around 7:30 am, in bright early sunshine, under a clear blue sky. The air was cool, and dry, promising autumn, not quite yet, but soon now, soon, just wait. An exquisitely beautiful and pleasant day.
A thousand miles away, tens of thousands of people wade through knee-deep water or sit on filthy pavement amid heaps of trash, human waste, corpses rotting in the heat, often without food or water, while gangs of men with guns rape little girls and fire on would-be rescue workers. Please take us away, they cry. Only the sky hears. No one comes for days. A week ago they were living in a city of life, music, and light. Now they are in hell on earth.
How can these two worlds be part of the same world? How is such a thing possible?
Surely there is nothing special about the people of New Orleans. Could their fate be ours some day? Could the earth open up beneath the feet of any of us and plunge us in to Hell, as it did to those poor wretches in New Orleans?
New Orleans is shocking only because of its simultaneity: these horrible events happening to a great many people at once. In fact, people are plunged into Hell daily, one at a time, all over the world. One day you are hale and spry, and the world is a perfectly pleasant place. The next day you are unaccountably short of breath, with an odd, heavy feeling in your chest that you refuse to call 'pain'. When you are panting so hard you can't speak, they call 911 for you, and take you to the hospital, where the oxygen helps, but not enough, and when it becomes so tiring to breathe that you almost want to stop, a man, who looks too young for you to trust him with your life, comes at you with an immense plastic tube that he says he is going to put down your throat to help you breathe. You remember your aunt who got one of those tubes, and never got off the breathing machine until she died two weeks later. She couldn't speak. Her eyes looked terrible. Was it pain? Was it fear? Was it confusion, at how this could have happened to her, who still remembered what it was like to be sixteen years old?
Deep questions, these, worth long pondering, but the universe isn't giving you time for that either, because here comes the young man with his tube right now, and this world, which you have always lived in with such great pleasure and contentment has suddenly and arbitrarily dropped you into Hell, for no reason you can understand.
Sorry, that got very dark, didn't it? It's something I think of from time to time. How is it possible for the world to be so cruel and so beautiful at the same time? And to slip from one to the other so rapidly?
No, I don't have any answers. It's just something I think about. I'll let you know if I figure it out.
幽玄 == yuugen == (noun, adjective which takes な)
|The bottom radical is 'short thread' (similar to 糸). The top radical is a 'twisting device'. This character originally referred to thread suitable for twisting into a rope. It came to mean 'something very small', then 'something hard to see', and finally to its current meaning of 'occult/mysterious'. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Twisted black thread symbolizes occult.'|