Japan is no stranger to disaster. Earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, landslides, flooding, these are all regular elements of life, elements that have made Japan what it is today. I have lived here for twelve years and something terrible has happened at least once a year since I have been here. And yet this storm, watching the flooding right now, I am shattered. I know Japan will recover but there are people in the houses, right now, people who will most likely die if not rescued. But it is too dangerous to rescue them. So we are most likely witnessing, in our safe, snug homes through the vantage of our screens, their final moments. It was the same back in 2011 when the tsunami dragged entire neighborhoods away, some of them on fire, when you saw people driving furtively to get ahead of it but they were not fast enough. It is terrible to bear witness to this and yet, can I look away, should I? What would that woman in the balcony window waving a white cloth want me to do? What would that old man trying to climb onto his roof do if he were me?
A year ago, Hiroshima was also hit by a typhoon that created landslides and flooding its wake. We were lucky because our neighborhood was spared. But we kept getting the alerts, kept reading the news, remained vigilant in holding the suffering of our neighbors at the top of our minds. Because it was all we could do.
Having survived other tragedies that this world has dealt, let me say this: I believe our obligation to those who are dying or in distress, those too far away to help, is to live and to live well, fully and fearlessly, until we ourselves are dying or in distress.
I am not sure even what I am aiming for in writing this post. Perhaps I just want to include you in the vigilance, so that you too can consider the woman on her balcony, the man desperately trying to get on his roof. We may be unable to reach them but we can still hold onto them.