The more tragedies we have to deal with or at least to witness with our own eyes or through the lenses of someone else’s, the less we get used to them.
We feel bad for the victims and feel touched by the survivors’ stories, but when the time comes to stand up, speak out, and do something worthy for our own kind and our own planet, we run away and hide or turn our faces the other way, because all of a sudden these problems are no longer ours. Of course, we know that we could be victims ourselves tomorrow, but who cares? It’s easier and more comfortable at the time just to feel compassionate towards those who are less fortunate.
I’m not here today for finger-pointing, though, especially because I could do so much more myself. However, social and spiritual duties aside, I wonder how the mother of a child who was killed when her school collapsed during an earthquake feels. Miserable, shattered, desperate, empty – no doubt. What about outraged? Does she blame someone for her irreplaceable loss? For fear of blaming God for having collected the child back to Him earlier than He should have, the mother thinks it would make sense to blame poor construction and maintenance of the school building. She also feels it is her right to blame scientists who should already possess a miraculous machine that informs us exactly when the next earthquake will hit. But the mother is not done blaming yet. She blames the rescue workers for being too slow; she blames the night; she blames the rain; she blames the sun. She blames herself for not having felt anything particular, a warning from within in that morning, before her child left for school. She believes it is her duty as a mother to feel such things and to avoid the worst!
Not knowing who else to blame, the desperate mother continues blaming herself, lamenting, “Why, oh why, did I ignore the signs that nature and the animals send us before a tragedy occurs?” She’s seen stories on television of a wave of frogs invading a city without precedent in a region where a great lake would dry out mysteriously in a matter of days, of elephants backing off in a hurry to higher ground shortly before the tsunami of 2004 made history. It’s perhaps a strange energy in the air, a premonition, a dream, a scene from a film that sticks in a person’s head for no apparent reason nor interest, or that same song playing over and over again on the radio.
Should we take all these signs seriously and act accordingly by taking appropriate precautions?
This would mean no more flying after having had to return home by taxi for a forgotten passport, or grounding a child for a day after having a bad dream or a strange feeling, or perhaps running to the market for gallons of drinking water, loads of canned food, and gas-masks thanks to some strange behavior that your dog or cat has been showing lately.
There are those who understand the meaning of premonitions and act accordingly, but they can never be sure that this ability is always right. It could also happen that an absolute king of reasoning has had a vividly palpable vision, but would he believe in it?
I’m not sure what we should believe, since we’re all so different and we acknowledge our sensitivities in so many different ways, but what I try to do is always to listen to my own belly.
Imagine that little girl who was kidnapped in Austria and held in captivity for eight long years. In a interview after she ran away she said, “Seconds before he [the kidnaper] caught me by force, I walked the sidewalk and felt strange as I saw his white van parking a few meters ahead of me. If only I had crossed the street as the little voice whispered in my ear …”
I think that if we took signs, warnings, and voices more seriously – even those which cannot be logically explained – maybe we could prevent some tragedies, and, if not, at least we wouldn’t regret them so much.
Luciana B. Veit