After Katrina hit the coast, and caused some of the greatest devastation yet seen at that time, I was giving a talk on Zen practice at the Japanfest, which at that time was held outdoors in Stone Mountain Park. Suddenly a woman interrupted me, asking “Well, what would you do if you were in Katrina — just sit there?” I was taken aback a bit, having never run into a Zen heckler before, but responded that I had no idea what I might do in such a crisis. Run for safety, try to help others — who really knows, until you are actually faced with such a nightmare?
But I made the point, that if she thought somehow she, and I, were exempt from the hurricane, simply because we had dodged that particular bullet — or that of Andrew or Hugo for that matter. The latter made a slope of rubble of the building in Charleston where our Zen affiliate met — one brave or foolish member climbed up to the floor level where the zendo had been and dug out the drum and gong from the pile of brick. If so, then she had another think coming. We are all in the eye of a hurricane, whether we know it or not. And the wall is coming our way, eventually.
We are all beginning to experience a bit of fatigue, I assume, with the vicarious disaster du jour that we are faced with each day on the media. How many times do we look at images of unremitting tragedy until it becomes the new normal? The heroic attempts of our first-, second-, and third-responders, to rescue and restore the damage; and the pathetic antics of our leaders in politics and religion to manage damage control, and to rationalize such events as the will of God, for example; only add to the sense of déjà vu as each new horror slogs through the “breaking news-biggest ever-putting this behind us-gaining closure-healing” routine with which we have become all too familiar, as the standard public reaction, and acknowledgement of living in interesting times.
Next comes the inevitable finger-pointing and fault-finding, and the assurance that we are taking measures to “make sure this can never happen again.” It is not lost on many of us that it did not have to be this way, whether in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, or Mexico City. And that in the past few weeks. When Hugo hit South Carolina, one of our members there, who was a home-builder, decided to wait out the storm in one of the homes he had built on the coast, with some friends. They didn’t lose a shingle. He designed, engineered, and built hurricane-proof homes. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes are used at the DEW line at the arctic circle, partly because they can withstand hurricane-force winds. They are based on a 60-degree system, imitating Nature’s closest-packing of molecules to generate structure, rather than the 90-degree model typical of most buildings, which is not inherently sound, but requires cross-bracing.