Monday, March 14

on Japan, weddings, and politics

It was a weird, horrible, wonderful, encouraging, terrifying, heartbreaking, heart-mending week.

On Thursday, a friend finished (I mean finished) her first novel. It made me smile big smiles, and it also lit a fire under my ass. I might get to read it, but not before I finish my own damned manuscript. On the same day (Friday for them) the earth shook in close proximity to Japan though, so my joy was tempered.

I drove to Vancouver on Friday morning after a pit stop at Mom’s for coffee. I was driving to my Bio-Mom’s place in Surrey. So it took me around five hours and 500 kilometers to get from my Mom’s place to my Mom’s place. I’m guessing that puts me in a relatively small club. Not too small, but small enough.

I spent a good part of the trip thinking about Japan. That’s a large club – those thinking about Japan – from the minority-hateful club highlighted on Facebook who were equating an earthquake and tsunami with Pearl Harbor; to the larger demographic who are directly affected, hoping to hear a word that will never come, hoping to survive long enough for help to arrive, hoping that the scars won’t be too deep; to the majority club around the world that were/are just trying to think positive things, and empathize, and hope for the best. The “best”, at this point, would seem to be “anything that is not the worst”.

The radio says that we still don’t know the magnitude of this tragedy; that the estimates of destruction and depth keep jumping every hour. The truth is that we’ll never know the magnitude of this tragedy, no matter how exact the numbers, how specific the radiation counts, how large the dollar amounts. Some tragedies can’t be measured. All we can do is be dumbfounded and then try to lean into the light again.

That’s what I tried to do as I drove into Surrey; grab the light I was driving towards and lean into it. I was visiting to attend my brother Travis’s wedding after all.

Saturday morning Travis picked me up on the way to the Abbotsford Airport so we could pick up our other brother, Troy. (Aside: My birth name, before the adoption, was Thomas – Mom had a theme all planned out.) Then the three of us drove back to Mom’s to let her bask in our perpetual three-way ribbing. And then we spent the day together, the three of us, until it was time for the wedding. This happens only once every couple years these days, so it was precious.

There were moments, whole, long sequences of seconds and minutes when I actually forgot about Japan.

The ceremony itself was simple. Trav and his fiancé Kate were insistent that it meant nothing. They have no plans on celebrating March 12. It’s a formality in anticipation of a wedding in Mexico next month, and having a signed, authorized license back here in Canada makes the legal part of things much easier. So we gathered at Kate’s parent’s home, just family, eight of us, and ate too much. Some of us drank too much, but we forgive them and had made plans for safe drives home. And in the middle a Justice of the Peace arrived and we had a little ceremony.

Kate and Trav had championed the “this means nothing” theme, and yet everyone shed at least one tear. Kate was gorgeous in her laughing tears, Trav handsome in his stoic ones, and the room was full of love the way incense can fill a room; in the way that it makes you pull back and say “wow” involuntarily.

I had several profound moments of gratitude. This was a family I had never known eighteen years ago. Trav and Kate’s love has already overcome things that would make lesser mortals coil back in fear. Gratitude actually seems like a really small word. After all, words are just symbols we use to shorthand an idea. Ideas like gratitude or love deserves volumes, encyclopedias, libraries.

It’s cool that we can condense an idea like that into five or nine letters, depending, but there’s a disservice in the accomplishment too. Both gratitude and love deserve words with more gravitas. It’s typically Western: Our accomplishments sometimes go too far. We do because we can, and do not, often enough, ask whether we should.

I drove back Sunday morning and Japan still dominated the news. There was more information on the Fukushima reactor. The numbers were ugly and getting uglier with no end in sight. There was no way to measure it on a heart level, but the astronomers said that our days are now 1.6 milliseconds shorter because the rotation of the Earth sped up, and another expert is saying that, according to GPS measurements, Honshu appears to have moved almost 2.4 meters. The whole thing. Eight feet.

And then, in the mountains, I lost radio and enjoyed silence for a couple hours. When I came out Tapestry was on CBC. Karen Armstrong was on, talking about compassion. She won the TED prize in 2009 and wished for the Charter for Compassion, a wish she got and is getting. The Charter is an amazing idea.

They also talked about the attack ads that the Conservative party is running right now in Canada

I read a very funny op-ed in McLean’s by Scott Feschuk in which he said:
“Are there really people out there so ideologically fragile that a 30 seconds of dubious accusations are enough to alter their worldview? …Intrigued by this phenomenon, I have conducted painstaking research to develop a theory that offers insight into the precise mechanism by which attack ads are able to affect popular opinion. My theory is as follows: People are dumb. …I am not saying you’re an idiot if you switch parties because of an ad you saw on television. But I am thinking it.”
I know, not very compassionate, is it? The world is complex, what can I say? We can grieve for Japan on the same weekend as a joyous wedding, even while simultaneously hoping that our species can learn to embrace compassion as a benchmark, and yet laugh at a one-sided article insulting the voting population of my country.

Nobody said any of this would be simple.

Oh, somewhere along the line I lost an extra hour. Let me know if you see it. Every hour is important. If I can’t have it, I’d like to at least know that it went to a good cause.