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Tragedy: Wheel inside a Wheel

In the face of horrific events, I tend to go quiet. I watch along with the rest of the world but I don't feel that I have much to add. Online life does not do well with quiet. We're supposed to always be looking for ten-ways-to-shout-louder-than-others-here or find-success-like-dooce there. I tend to step back. Tweet a few things that informed me. Like how a nuclear reactor works. I had no idea.

I wait for the regular tragedy cycle. Shock and awe. Commentary. Stupidity - that US network that chose to add frantic drumming over video of the tsunami because the footage wasn't dramatic enough for them. The religious chatterers of all stripes who think they have the direct line to shifting rock and the voice of gods. The need to know so we can feel some sort of control over those gods. And men. And atoms. All while living on a planet that shakes itself silly while spinning through space.

It's been a while since I've thought of the voice of God in the midst of a tragedy but I was thinking of all this a few years ago when the combination of human imperfection and natural forces heaved themselves onto the shores of southern States. As I walked through my quiet neighborhood, I could hear Mary Gauthier's voice. She wrote a song, Wheel Inside The Wheel,  about a funeral in New Orleans. I saw her at a folk festival - too early in the morning and in the pouring rain. As the audience took shelter as best we could - hats, rain ponchos made from hastily torn garbage bags, Mary said "You're impressing the hell outta me." We shouted our encouragement, our breath showing in the morning air and then rolling upwards with the collected cigarette smoke and coffee fumes into the falling rain.

She told us she wanted to write a song for a friend, a songwriting friend, that had died. She felt unworthy to write a song for someone who had such incredible skill so she asked God, "Lord, what should I do?" And God said, "Go to New Orleans! Go to New Orleans! Go to New Orleans!"  And Mary said, "Shit God. Don't speak to me directly. You're scarin' me."

Those are the words I heard step after step on my clean and dry sidewalks...New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans. And now on currently not-so terra firma, my keyboard and all of us chattering away trying to avoid the tremors beneath our feet. Shit God. Don't speak to me directly. You're scarin' me.




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Reader Comments (2)

I go quiet, too, at times like these, and am grateful for thoughtful, slow commentary that gives me insight and comfort. Thank you.

Yesterday I received an e-newsletter - this seems like and appropriate place and time to share an excerpt:

"I started writing this newsletter as the reports of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan hit.... I was relieved to hear the my relatives in Japan were all safe. Although now I worry about aftershocks and radiation and supply shortages. I have been left paralyzed wondering if this is all really happening and trying to figure out the best way to offer help.

In my mind I keep picturing the giant whirlpool sucking ships in to it's vortex. I think of the estuary I came upon in Tofino. There, an image of the same swirling water but on a completely different scale. Again in awe of the power of the nature to override all of human efforts. The mixture of life and death in the ocean.

We must cherish what we have no matter what scale. Every small thing should be honoured for tomorrow it could slip through our fingers. Today I will give thanks for my health and those around me. It's the little things that give us hope."

~ Arleigh Wood, Artist

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

My lenten social media break doesn't extend to life-sustaining things like the Hedge Society. :)

I felt the same thing on Twitter, the frantic attempts to attach ourselves somehow to what is happening in Japan. And I felt it in myself. I guess that was my first clue that it was time to step away.

Thank you very much for this, Karen.

March 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRené
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