Here are the facts. There was a massive earthquake centered just off the coast of Japan just north of the city of Sendai. My ex-wife Yuka's family lives in Osaki-shi Kashimadai 大崎市鹿島台 (formerly just plain Kashimadai) which is just north of Sendai. The only report of any kind I have been able to find on the Internet regarding the town contains just three words, "very much destroyed." I have to assume this is a translation from Japanese, which leads me to believe that the intended message is that very many (much) of the things in the city have been destroyed and not that the city itself is very much destroyed. This is just my sense after working for a decade and a half figuring out what Japanese people actually mean when they speak English.
At the same time, I was struck with one of the worst colds I've ever had at almost the very moment the earthquake hit Japan. So I missed the initial news reports, being in no condition to even look at the computer. Today I feel a lot better and have been scouring the news for any information about Kashimadai beyond those three words. I have turned up nothing so far even when searching in Japanese. I hope this is good news. I figure that if anything really dramatic occurred in Kashimadai they'd be reporting it. (As I was writing this someone on Facebook sent me a report in Japanese that lists 4 dead, 1 missing, 6 injured and 363 people in shelters in the city, which would make it one of the least affected places in the area)
But it's a given that Yuka's family have been affected by the earthquake. Her parents live in a 2-story house in a rural area, not directly connected to any other structure. Her brother and his family live across the street in a third story apartment in a gigantic apartment complex. They're not very near any major bodies of water. They're far enough inland I'm not much worried that they got hit directly by a tsunami.
There is very little I can do. I've asked Yuka to let me know when she hears anything and I trust that she will. She's in Los Angeles and I'm in Akron and we don't speak that frequently these days. I don't want to pester her about this. She has enough to deal with. Beyond that I'm pretty much helpless to help much. So all I have left to do is worry. And worry doesn't help anyone at all.
Of course I am worried nonetheless. What can I do about that?
I've seen what the news is doing about that. They're flooding us with photos and videos of the destruction. I spent some time this morning on BBC's website. And it was there that it struck me what's really going on with the news. I clicked on a report about the Number 2 (Daini) nuclear power plant in Fukushima. But before the report played I had to sit through an advertisement.
So there I was trying to get some shred of info about what might be happening to people I care about and I had to watch someone try to sell me something. I don't even remember what it was.
It reminded me of September 11, 2001. I was living in Tokyo then and I recall trying to get information from the Internet. After about an hour of searching it hit me. "These people don't know anything." Those exact words popped into my head. Although the Internet was filled with reports and pictures, nobody really knew anything useful.
Same with the earthquake. There are just a few actual facts. Beyond that what you're reading and listening to is opinions, speculations and advertising. Most of which is worthless. You can sit there listening to the same three facts get repeated over and over and over, hoping that something new might be added. But you'd be better off cleaning your room instead and switching the news on again when you're done.
All this stuff makes me think about the whole phenomenon called "being concerned." Society places a great deal of importance upon "being concerned" about this, that or the other terrible thing going on somewhere in the world. I agree that a bit of this concern is useful in helping alleviate suffering in those places. But it strikes me that the vast majority of what we call "being concerned" involves getting into our own heads, turning over the information, imagining whatever we want to imagine, working up our emotions, wallowing in our feelings like a pig in mud. For some reason I've never been able to comprehend very clearly this makes us look good socially, like we're doing the right thing.
But I'm unable to see how watching endless reports, loaded with advertising, about a disaster really helps anything. Just my two cents for today. I'm going to go back to bed and drink orange juice.
(An explanation for the image above can be found here. Apparently being gay causes earthquakes.)