March 31, 2011

The Stuff That Never Moves


This remarkable photo needs no caption.

We all know where it was taken.

We all know how a 25-foot keelboat ended up on the roof of a two-story building.

After weeks of watching video of natural catastrophe we never imagined possible, we are too numbed to be surprised or shocked by such sights anymore.

But most of us can turn away from the screen and ease back into the comfort of our daily lives. We can let ourselves be distracted by more recent news - from Libya, Syria, and from the gas station pumps in our home towns.

In Japan, though, there is no escape. Even if you managed to avoid physical injury, even if there was no personal tragedy in your immediate family, even if your home is still intact, the industrial, economic, and political bedrock of Japan have shifted as much as the geological footings that caused the terrible quake.

Those aftershocks will shake the country for months and years to come.

Over on the Sweet Bluesette blog, Pandabonium is starting to give us a taste of what 'ordinary' life is like in his shaken homeland. Far enough from the primary centers of the quake's worst damage, he is still close enough to be surrounded by its effects everywhere he turns.

In his latest post, a simple trip to see if his favorite Italian restaurant is still open turns into an opportunity to show us how daily life has been disrupted for thousands of Japanese who weren't struck directly by the quake or the tsunami.

This followed an earlier post where he described how such widespread trauma can affect one's mental state and the emotional tenor of an entire nation.

As I commented there, living through such times must make you wonder if our journey through life isn't just a perpetual search to find the stuff that never moves - the things that we can count on no matter what happens to us. Most of us will navigate life's waters without ever suffering a shipwreck, so we tend not to think about what we will use for a liferaft if a tsunami overtakes us.

If you haven't already, check out Panda's blog for a fresh take on what these frightening times look like through the eyes of someone who is there.



  1. Thank you, O'Dock!

    As someone who's ship has run aground a few times, I have a lot of empathy for our Asian friends - not only Japan, but Indonesia a few years ago. In the case where all is lost, it is your friends and community that pull you through. Without that you can be unmoored forever. In this case, that community is all of us.

    When I see a picture of someone crying over a pile of shattered timber that was once their home, all I can do is cry myself.


  2. Well said. However, it's often the stuff that never moves that one takes for granted. Then, when it moves it feels like nothing will ever be the same. It takes a long time to adjust to change, but eventually it happens. I know using 9/11 as an example is a bit trite, but did anyone ever think that the World Trade Center one day wouldn't be there?

    I love that the restaurant "Luce" was operating by using disposable tableware and cooking with bottled water. They probably took a few days to get their ducks in a row, but then it was time once again to make the meatballs. Ward and Kimie went to lunch and supported Luce's effort to get back on their feet and I applaud that.

    Japan will rise again.

  3. "...In the case where all is lost, it is your friends and community that pull you through..."

    "'s often the stuff that never moves that one takes for granted. Then, when it moves it feels like nothing will ever be the same.."

    Thoughts like those made me write this post. What is the real stuff that never moves?

    I think, without realizing it, we all tend to base our sense of well-being on physical or external things - a house, a job, a car, maybe even a boat if that is our home. But, as solid and dependable as those things may seem, they can all disappear. It's very difficult to tell yourself that none of that matters and to build a sense of personal identity that doesn't rely on those things.

    I think none of us knows how well we've succeeded at that until we experience losses like those the Japanese are now facing.

  4. As O Docker sagely observes (to paraphrase), it ain't the physical that matters.

    Ward, Kimie, Michael and Baydog are all expressing the same truth: the only real "stuff" that never moves is family...

    ... whether you like or not...

    ... and a handful of friends and soul mates.

    WV: feudste - as I said... family

  5. In many ways, Japan has a fresh start ahead - even for areas that were not directly impacted. Hopefully we won't try to put things back the way they were, but move on to a better arrangement of our lives, a re-prioritizing of our values and that of the nation as whole.