As I'm sure all of you know, a massive earthquake hit Japan late last week. I've received several emails from readers of this blog asking for news of our friends in Japan. I am very relieved to say that everyone we know is well and safe if not exactly comfortable (no electricity, no running water and so on). Andrew Edsall is fine - he sent a note via his blackberry right after the quake saying that he was OK and attempting to walk home since there were no trains. Good Day Books lost some books off the shelves but Steve had the good sense not to be under them when they started coming down. A note from some of my consultant friends said they ended up spending the night at work. My elder Frenchling reported the same for the kids at the Lycee Franco-Japonais - they spent the night bedding down in the gymnasium. Over the weekend everyone made it home safe and sound.
Update 23/3/2011: For those of you who are looking for a way to show solidarity with Japan in this time of crisis, the American Red Cross and the British Red Cross sites have links where you can donate to support on-going disaster relief efforts there.
An earthquake is a most singular and terrifying experience. From the moment you realize that the skyscraper is swaying ever so gently or that the ceiling of your house is starting to move (no, that is not the bus going past...) all you can do is find the safest place to ride it out and hope it isn't too intense or too long. I've been asked by my friends from seismically inactive parts of the world why anyone in their right mind would live in an earthquake prone area. The simplest answer, of course, is that some of us were born in such places - I'm from the Pacific Northwest of the US which has several faults and active volcanoes. Another, perhaps more complex answer, is that we live in such places because we wish to, and the joy that we get from experiencing a place as beautiful and as culturally rich as Japan more than outweighs any fear of nature's wrath.
All human beings are players in the cosmic crap shoot of the universe. No place on this planet is perfectly safe. Nature will from time to time have her due. But we are survivors. We learn, we adapt and we go on.
From the Tao Te Ching (quoted in Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales)
One who is good at preserving life
does not avoid tigers and rhinoceroses
when he walks in the hills;
nor does he put on armor and take up weapons
when he enters battle.
The rhinoceros has no place to jab its horn,
The tiger has no place to fasten its claws,
Weapons have no place to admit their blades.
What is the reason for this?
Because on him there are no mortal spots.