You know the news by now, of course. The devastation in Japan from last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami is just heart-rending. Here’s a before-and-after look, via Google Earth, at the destruction wrought by the waves in the fishing town of Minami Sanriku; the SOS scrawled by survivors on the soccer field of the elementary school just breaks your heart.
I hope we’re all doing what we can to support the victims. If you’d like to give, one place to do so is Non-Believers Giving Aid, a disaster relief fund coordinated by the Richard Dawkins Foundation. Alternatively, you can contribute to Foundation Beyond Belief, which forwards 100% of all collected funds to the Japanese Red Cross.
I’ll end with Adam Frank’s eloquent post on the role of science in times of tragedy:
Science gives us so much. It is the engine of our capacities, forging tools like the life-saving technological capacity to predict tsunamis. It is also the lens of our greatest aspiration, yielding broad narratives of cosmic and planetary evolution that set our personal stories in context.
But at some point we crash up against domains where science, or at least science alone, cannot help. In those moments, when we are numb with the immediacy of great suffering, explanations can become clay on the tongue. In that shattered place, our other human talents often find their place. In poem or paean, in music or metaphor, in silent homage to whatever powers make sense to the heart in that moment, we may (or may not) find our way.
What those moments teach is that all existence is, for us, provisional. They show that we are as much creatures of experienced feeling as we are of rational thinking. They show us the full range of what it means to be human, all too human, in a world alive with tremendous power, unspeakable beauty and, sometimes, shattering terror.
(h/t Bob Cesca)