About Nepal . . .

Dear Poseidon,

This whole Nepal thing has really been eating at me. I feel like I understand, and yet I don’t. These people, clinging to life on the sides of mountains, surely have enough challenges without the touch of Ennosigaios to wipe nearly everything they know from the face of the earth.

But.

Science makes clear what living on the slopes of the Himalayas brings with it. Nepal’s earthquakes are some of the most regular tectonic disruptions known. So regular, in fact, that I expect the eldest Nepalese remember a time, when they were young children, that the otherwise solid rock beneath their feet shook like curtains and rippled like water. The sharpest among them might even recall that their own grandparents and wizened elders told tale of the time when this happened when they were young children, skipping two and three generations, but never so many that none living could recall that earthquakes are nothing new. This greatest of mountain ranges is built upon plate tectonics, as India dives down beneath Asia, and such majesty does not arise without violence. In a way, the Nepalese are blessed like no other people, because they at least have a sense of when the inevitable shall occur. No one in California can say that.

But.

Widespread disaster never seems to touch our shores. The worst losses of life in my country have always been created by us, not the gods. In the United States, we have the knowledge and resources to prevent so many of the deaths once caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods . . . and yet countless thousands die in Ares’ name, or by human folly. Passion drives us to create more powerful weapons, more effective medicines, more troubling food systems, more potable water, more disconnection from the gods, and simultaneously more skepticism for the science that was supposed to replace them. I live in a great bubble, Basileus my king, that tries to muffle your influence but creates new forms of suffering to balance accounts. My life is nothing like that of a Nepalese family living high in mountain village that can only be reached by a thin ribbon of road, or perhaps a helicopter if one is available. Their struggles are not my struggles. The amount of money I make, the amount that sometimes keeps me awake at night worrying what the future might bring, is still more in most weeks than many Nepali workers earn in a year. Sheltered by industry and empire, even if I am ever in the crosshairs of your rage, Labrandeus, my life will still materially rebound much, much faster than it will over there. Part of me wonders if the people of Nepal haven’t been kicked in the teeth, either for no reason, for because they deserved it for reasons I cannot fathom.

But.

Death by landslide or cholera or malnutrition is not all that face the people of Nepal. As unwelcome as their suffering surely is, this quake is the sort of disaster that can bring humanity together, because its onset was sudden, its victims blameless, and its destruction is being relayed around the world. Whatever money is pooled to aid the Nepalese may or may not be enough to rebuild what was lost, but it’s arriving much faster than did relief for Ebola. Stories of aid supplies backlogged and not arriving in the remote villages where they are desperately needed is still better than stories of people dying because no help has been sent at all. Managing the logistics of compassion is worthy work, and I cannot help but believe that each attempt to work together on missions of aid elevates our entire species. Humanity’s spirit needs opportunities for elevation, but we are probably missing a lot of them. Are we so deep in our ruts that thousands of people need to die in a distant land before we are shaken out of our complacency, Ennosigaios? And why did you choose Nepal to set your clock by?

You are god of sudden change, Poseidon, and it can take a long time to learn the lessons that you unexpectedly bestow. May you grant at least the full eighty years to allow this one to sink in.

Thinking of you always,

TPW

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