Life Goes On

Isn’t is weird to see people going on about their business while a disaster devastates  one part of the world and a ruthless massacre takes place somewhere else? If you follow twitter, the incongruous tweets illustrate how most people go right on advancing their agendas and talking about what they’re wearing or what they ate, NO MATTER WHAT.

I know that humans are wired like this, wired for adaptation to nearly any  circumstances. Instead of celebrating this feature of humanity, I’ve always found it incredibly sad. People survive wars, torture, earthquakes,  amputations, every kind of loss. They learn to  absorb  these tragedies and and for the most past, we expect them to return to “normal.”

Even if we can’t go to Japan to help out, should we shrug it off and go right back to slobbering over shoes or worrying about our Klout scores?

I feel guilty, sad, angry, confused, and conflicted.

In my own life, I can’t move on and get back to business. It feels like a sin to even consider it.  Resilience  seems like a cruel joke.   But that’s what  survival is about.

I wish resilience for the  people of  of Japan, but less resilience for the people of twitter and elsewhere, who haven’t even missed a beat in the rhythm of their daily bullshit.

Thoughts or  advice?

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45 Responses to Life Goes On

  1. Lara says:

    I’ve been sick for a week doing a bunch of nothing so it’s all I can watch on the news until I lose my mind and clean, fart around online, or run some mundane errand.
    I feel helpless being so far away. All you can do is donate to the Red Cross and send whatever good energy you can to the people.
    Last night when people were bringing up the Pearl Harbor>Japan>karma bullshit, I became enraged. I actually wasted time writing to a few of those assholes! The anger does nothing though. Those idiots are what’s wrong in this country and just reinforces my need to keep as much love in my life as possible.
    You really do just have to keep on living and loving.

  2. helen says:

    Thank you for taking the time to articulate the thoughts of so many. Feeling paralyzed by the events of the world and yet have the ability to turn on a light, tv, microwave popcorn, hug a loved one. It seems so utterly unfair.
    I’m so grateful for what (little) i have and so heavy-hearted to see what so many have lost.

  3. Dru says:

    Lara- are you serious people were bringing up that c. WWII garbage? Wow. Assholes never cease, it looks like. (sure, they got nuked TWICE for it- but that’s still not enough, all this while later)

    Sister- without resilience, where would we be? I don’t know how seriously to take twitter, though- it’s mostly thought vomit but it just makes it so obvious how trivial/banal most people’s daily lives are- including mine. Large chunks of my news feed today were all about the Cricket World Cup- yes, death and devastation loom large in other parts of the world but we’ll never stop pimping our sponsors, is the vibe I get.

    I guess we could be thankful that the damage isn’t worse- Japan has been horribly hit, yes, but it isn’t as widespread as the 2004 tsunami, thank goodness for strict building codes and general preparedness. The death toll is horrifying, yes, but it could have been much, much worse. I don’t even want to think of what it would have been like had the earthquake/tsunami struck at the same places as in 2004.

  4. Jenny says:

    Thanks a lot for this post. It perfectly articulates a lot what it feels to be in this world right now, and even though I know things like tweets about this purse and those shoes in light of everything that is happening are just trifles and just tiny pebbles I shouldn’t even bother to kick, but I can’t help but still feel horrified and, worse, I can’t help but feel horrified by my own reactions and my own ‘resilience’ as you’ve so finely articulated.


  5. sheri says:

    This is exactly why a) I don’t “Tweet.” It seems, by definition, that it would have to be nothing better than a vapid endeavour, and b) I started a blog rather than trying to make communication via facebook meaningful.

    The problem is that no matter how profound the things we think or say, there’s only so much any of us can do, especially with jobs and families and responsibilities of our own. I always kind of wanted to be the person who would drop everything and go wherever to help whomever needed it, but have never been able to figure out how to do that and not be completely useless to my family.

    I also think we should not tolerate anyone’s “daily bullshit” if it’s not serving us in some way. If we all decided to only read or listen to people who actually had something important to say, a lot less time would be wasted, and maybe more would be done to make the world a better place.

    And resilience may seem impossible, but sometimes may be the only thing which allows us to survive. And I do believe that tragedy unites us, as people, as communities, and allows grace — in whatever form — to shine, to uplift us. It does seem a cruel joke when we’re suffering from extreme pain, and the world is going on around us — people buying milk and putting gas in their cars and going to the cinema. And we think, “How can they? Don’t they know?”

    “Buildings and bridges are made to bend in the wind, to withstand the world, that’s what it takes. But all that steel and stone are no match for the air my friend; what doesn’t bend breaks.” (Ani Difranco)

  6. the real andrea says:

    Thanks for saying what I have been thinking since it happened. I just got a tweet from Barneys New York which said:

    “I style myself like I style a model. You should put your passion on yourself before translating to others. -Anna Della Russo (@StyleCaster)”

    I would be ashamed to put that out there as if that is the most important thing to be said at this time. It’s inappropriate and unfeeling. Enough said.

  7. dexter vandango says:

    Mel Brooks had that telling joke, “When I cut my finger it’s a tragedy. When you fall into an open sewer and die, it’s comedy.”

    There’s something strange about distance in time – and distance in geography. 10,000 killed in Japan on the same day as 10,000 killed in L.A. would mean less to us – just as 10,000 killed in Japan this week means more to us than the 100,000 who were killed in Tokyo in the 1923 quake.

    Distance in time and geography let us resume breathing normally again and not fear for our own mortality. And generally speaking our affluence in the west makes us feel so secure that we can’t imagine such bad things happening to us.. so we can’t relate. And when personal and private tragedy unexpectedly strikes we’re unprepared and don’t know how to share our feelings.. as most others are ignorant and feeling blase and safe ..until heart-break hits them as well.

    The Buddhists invite us to embrace suffering as it’s the essence of life, they say. I don’t know about that. Blissful indifference seems to work better. For why suffer before you have to?

    The Buddhist say if you don’t want to suffer you mustn’t care about anything, neither fear nor enjoy anything in this world. Seems like hiding under your pillow and waiting for oblivion to me.

    Life is neither fair nor logical – which makes it wonderfully unpredictable and exhilarating – until the truck hits you. Just pray for a big enough truck.

  8. the real andrea says:

    what does everyone think of this

    show your support for those affected by the #japan #earthquake by adding this Thinking of Japan Twibbon –

    putting it on your twitter avatar?

  9. Sister Wolf says:

    I just watched this footage. It feels like the earth has had enough and wants to retaliate. Can’t really blame it.

  10. Sister Wolf says:

    the real andrea – I don’t really like it. Money to Red Cross seems much more appropriate.

  11. Cricket9 says:

    Sister Wolf, I feel guilty going about my daily crap as if nothing happened – but I also must go about my daily crap, because – life does go on. I’m going to donate money or blood if they need it, as I did on many previous occasions when tragedy struck. That much I can do, and everyone who can, should do it too.
    You’re right, in general, humans are incredibly resilient. I don’t think it’s sad – it just is, without it human race would be gone already. This resilience will allow Japan to survive and rebuild…

  12. Jess says:

    If anyone feels the need to deepen their despair for humanity:

    People are so utterly, utterly selfish and small-minded. And I don’t know why I’m constantly surprised when I’m reminded of this.

  13. Perucha says:

    Funny that you bring this up. My boyfriend and I were talking about it earlier. We realized how damn lucky we are. Both immigrants and “alone” in this country, with both our families away. But all of us are healthy and alive and have a freaking home to come back after work. We have all our capacities intact. Our families are safe. We have something to eat every day. And when I find myself lusting after a handbag that I can’t afford, I just remember my good fortune and instantly that just loses importance or even sense.
    Saw a few images of the disaster in Japan and could not take it. It was awful. “We are all so powerless” was the only thought in my mind.

  14. dexter vandango says:

    “The Earth has had enough” and is trying to shake off her fleas..? Naw, symbolism is a luxury not really found in nature..

  15. Cricket9 says:

    Perucha, I’m in similar situation, and feel the same way.
    By the way – while we can’t avoid nature’s disaster, only try to be prepared for them, we continue to make our own. Ghaddafi continues to murder his own people, while “no fly zone” is still not established – why? Not that long ago I commented on his fashion sense, assuming that he’s mad, but harmless. I’m ashamed about how wrong I was.

  16. Aja says:

    When I first read the news, it was right after the earth quake happened 2am, my time. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t stop watching the news. I realized this wasn’t healthy or helping. So the next thing I did was reach out to everyone I know from Japan or those who have friends and family in Japan. I think that’s my best coping mechanism, to reach out to those I can touch. To let them know I care and ask them what they think the best thing I should do and see if they need anything (even just a listening ear). Are there any funds that I can give to where my money will be best spent? One of the girls I dance ballet with is Japanese. She wrote me an email this afternoon to say “it makes me feel better that people like you care”. I might blather on about silly things on twitter. But that’s not the sum of my thoughts, just a smattering.

  17. KiwiMichelle says:

    Hey Sister Wolf,
    Been reading your blog for a while now, but this post has moved me to comment for the first time.
    I live in Christchurch, New Zealand. We had a 7.1 quake in September who’s epicentre was to the west of the city (4.30am, no fatalies) and a 6.3 to the east of the city on February 22, which sadly hit during a busy lunch hour (death toll currently at 200).
    Our beautiful city is devastated. Not one suburb has been left untouched.
    I work out of town (yay for being an agricultural scientist) and my workplace has been just fine. I feel guilty everyday about having a job to go to while there are so many unemployed because their buildings have been destroyed.
    I feel guilty for having a roof (albeit a wonky one) over my head…so many have been displaced.
    But what else can I do? I’ve shovelled silt, I’ve done baking for the welfare centres, I’ve donated to the Red Cross. But the guilt is still there.
    You just gotta keep on keeping on……and do whatever you can, not matter how trivial.

  18. Dru says:

    Jess- I think every one of those assholes forgot that, oh wait, the US nuked Japan towards the end of the war. Twice. “Karma”, my foot.

  19. EJ says:

    Aja has it spot on: “I might blather on about silly things on twitter. But that’s not the sum of my thoughts, just a smattering.”

    Where do we draw the line? Unfortunately someone will always find you callous for tweeting/blogging about something less than serious while something that is very serious and sad to them is going on. On a personal level, in my own times of (much MUCH smaller smaller scale) sadness, sorrow and darkness I have found comfort in this ‘life goes on’ quirk, and taken a sort of strange reassurance in the mundane.

    I seem to have lost the ability to write coherantly somewhere over the weekend, so I’ll stop. Those ‘karma’ folks are grade-a cunts though, that’s something we can all agree on.

  20. Sister Wolf says:

    KiwiMichele – You h ave done more than most. You are the model of how to cope, I think!

    EJ – Yeah, you can’t just moan all the time about things you have no power to fix, I was thinking more along the lines of a moment (or ten moments) of silence rather than oblivious prattle. The whole Karma thing is too despicable and stupid to dignify with discussion. Kist idiots.

  21. EJ says:

    But you can’t know whether someone has taken a moment or not in the real world, or how they really feel about a event. They may be crying as they type and we’d never know. Unless they write ‘I am crying as I type this’, but that might be a little bit weird. It’s difficult to get the balance right, but I suppose I just try to think the best of people in horrible situations as it’s shit enough already. I did, however, unfollow an acquaintance of mine for making a very poor taste joke about the NZ earthquakes not very long after they’d happened and then not quite getting why people got annoyed.

  22. dana says:

    what the HELL is that photo? Tell me it’s not real, please.

  23. Carrie says:

    SW, just wanted to thank you for, as usual, putting so well into words what many of us are already twisting around as a part of our inner dialogue. I’ve honestly been conflicted for a while now about the current state of our social media driven reality – and just how quickly/drastically our lives have collectively changed in the past decade (last 5-6 years, really).

    First, it was the new definition of celebrity that Charlie Sheen’s parched lips have puckered up, sucked shamelessly from the teat of social media, and, (having drawn from it the WORST of its potential), vomited back into our faces plastered with catchphrases we can’t stop repeating.

    Following my growing horror at this new species of celebrity (because surely isn’t this going to morph, evolve, mutate, and inevitably continue…?) I’ve still recently joined twitter as a way to try and promote my business – having been told repeatedly that I HAVE TO DO TWITTER in order to survive as an indie biz gal.

    I couldn’t help but think in exactly the vein of this post while watching those tweets roll, even as lives were literally being lost in Japan, often involving something ‘so-and-so’ ate or ‘so-and-so’ saw that was just ‘so gorgeous’…or whatever the fuck.

    My own use of social media freaks me out and makes me kind of sick, and I would consider myself a VERY light and extremely reluctant user. Is it possible that we are all disconnecting even further from the people we really are, or really can be, by reducing ourselves to soundbytes this way? Do we make ourselves look more callous than we really are by simply revealing these tiny nuggets of carefully constructed ‘spontaneity’? Surely this is a VERY reductive way to live our live and interact with one another?! Or am I the only one who sees it this way?

  24. Personally, I find all these #prayforjapan tweets deeply uncomfortable. I feel like I should be tweeting ‘oh my god, my prayers are with them’ because if I don’t I’m a vile soul-less beast, but by doing so I feel I’m just doing it to show how good a human being I am. So as a result I said nothing. I speculate nothing. I get annoyed by people tweeting ‘oh my god, nuclear fallout hitting california!!!!!’ and ‘oh my gosh, look how fabulous my life is, but the situation in japan brings out my previously hidden humility’.
    It’s sympathy-porn. I hate it.

  25. E says:

    Every day there are folks out there doing amazing things to help with disaster/starvation/oppression but you don’t hear anything about it – just more stuff about things to buy. Terrible, terrible things are normality for a lot of people but who some footballer is f*cking makes the headlines – not atrocities in Darfur.
    I don’t know whether you can fix perspective or priority, and to be honest, I would have thought the people of Japan have better things to worry about than the amount of gravitas shown by the rest of the world.

    Just donate and have done with it (whether to Japan or anywhere else that needs it – overseas or close to home).

  26. Sister Wolf, I’m glad I found this blog. Your posts/these comments are excellent. As for me, I’ve always avoided Twi**er like the plague, I read a little news in the morning to catch up, and then I just keep on keepin’ on. And you know, like Charlie Chaplin said, SMILE.

  27. Aja says:

    It would seem that Refinery29 and both felt along the same sentiments as you SW. Both sites posted articles today about things which you can do to help with the Tsunami disaster. Sometimes I think people need a moment to gather their thoughts before posting things. Get the sources correct, find out who’s doing what. So it didn’t surprise me that it took a few days for these articles to be posted.

  28. Taylor says:

    Resilience IS a cruel joke. The feeling of literally being angry that people are going about their days, or that the sun is shining is one that I’ve felt strongly these past few weeks. One of my closest friends since high school died unexpectedly last week. The emotions I’ve felt have been so weird, and honestly, the one thing that I keep feeling is that I just want to call his phone because I feel like he would pick up, which is insane, I know.

    I hate that I’ve contributed to the vomit that is Twitter. But I have… I was so hesitant to even use mine. The videos of Japan are almost too difficult for me to watch. After my friends funeral, I was talking with my friend who lives in NOLA about natural disasters, and one of my friends was saying they were glad that one hadn’t hit our hometown, because losing one loved one was horrible enough- to lose an entire population of people is unimaginable.

  29. Aja says:

    Taylor I’m sorry for you loss. I hope you you feel better soon.

  30. WendyB says:

    I’ve been obsessing over the situations in Japan and Libya, but that doesn’t help anyone, does it? Nor does it make me a better person. Just a neurotic one. I wish I were one of those people who could more easily put it out of my mind. Of course, we don’t know what everyone is thinking based on their Twitter feeds (or blog posts). Some people might be thinking of it a lot; others not at all. I myself have tweeted just a couple of times about Japan, while also tweeting about the usual things. I used to work at CNN but that was more than 10 years ago now. It’s no longer my job to be reporting the news throughout the day; the news is readily available from thousands of different sources.

    Life does go on, in its weird way. Thankfully! If it all stopped, that would mean we were in a real crisis, right? I’m not ready for the apocalypse. And even in the very midst of a disaster, life can on. On 9/11, as my colleagues and I walked up the West Side Highway and away from our building directly across the street from the World Trade Center, I asked one person, “Everything is changed. What do we do tomorrow? Do I just go and pick up the dry cleaning like usual?” It seemed impossible. Yet, even though the stench of the Trade Center collapse was everywhere, I did go pick up the dry cleaning.

  31. Jaimi says:

    I was looking up stupid music videos on youtube when an advisory bar popped up that the earthquake had hit Japan. It was utterly surreal to be watching live footage in real time. I felt like I was in the scene in the film Persona where Elisabet is watching the news broadcast in silent horror. My relatives in Japan are safe, fortunately, I found out later via Facebook. Today I saw a picture of a woman sitting by herself in a pile of rubble in Japan, she looked a lot like me. I feel so fortunate. I’ve been coming out of a lengthy bout of depression myself and am struggling to find new purpose as well as deal with how much time I’ve been drifting, lost and kind of submerged. But life goes on. It’s so absurd. I feel like I should do more but I don’t know what.

  32. Audi says:

    Here in Northern California our local news told us in exhaustive detail about the “devastation” that the tsunami brought to Santa Cruz, which in reality consisted of about a hundred boats (mostly pleasure crafts, from the looks of it) getting bumped around or sunk in the harbor. It sickened me that this would even make the news when there are nuclear reactors melting down, villages that have been wiped out, lives that have been lost and thousands of people that remain unaccounted for in Japan. What right does anyone have to be concerned about their sailboat in the face of that?

    That said, I live in an earthquake-prone area myself (as do you SW, I know), and I wonder if I would really give a shit about what the rest of the world did or said or how much they would wring their hands for my city were it to be destroyed. I imagine that when you’re in the midst of a catastrophe of that scale, the thoughts or actions of those outside it are of very little consequence.

  33. Nickie Frye says:

    I’ve been having terrible nightmares about tsunamis every night since this all went down. I find the whole business terrifying & frankly a little discouraging. I love hard, work hard, & play hard, but at any moment it all could be gone. Feeling very Ecclesiastic. I’m trying to distract myself.

  34. It is difficult. One can’t stop but yet equally you can’t ignore. So I didn’t tweet much and I didn’t do the pray thing either because that seems a bit pointless/show offy too.

    I did donate to Red Cross and I did post this on my blog. I really couldn’t mention clothes or shoes in the face of such adversity.

    I like what Wendy said about 9/11. When London and elsewhere in the UK was being bombed to crap by the IRA (thanks to Irish American money – sorry I can never let that go) we used to just get on. I got told off for being late home once and it was because my friends and I had got caught up in a bomb blast in London. We weren’t hurt but that was more by luck than anything else. When it stopped in the late 90s it felt wonderful and so liberating.

    So I always go back to that morose feeling of worry, the time when I was more careful because I had to be alert. And even then I would forget and relax, as it always seemed so surreal anyway. I suppose as humans we have to forget these things so we can get on and not think about the enormity of it all.

    You do have to do the washing, go to work, pick up the dry cleaning but there is also a moment to stop, reflect and maybe not mention your material shit.

    And SW, I’m talking about the enormity of the disaster and not about forgetting personal disaster – on an individual level the grief is enormous and not something that resilience is about. Those individuals in Japan and New Zealand will cope better as a community in it together than if something happens in isolation. They will of course all cope differently as individuals, some better than others.

    And now I’ll stop rambling but thank you for articulating what I was thinking!

  35. Alicia says:

    I’m conflicted – Twitter depresses the hell out of me for many of the reasons you mention, but I honestly need the distraction from the horrorshow that is reality.

    Aside from that, I fully believe that humans as a species were meant to progress, to evolve, and to move forward. Resilience may not be afforded in high levels to everyone, but even still, we must find a way to keep going through everything that happens.

  36. Kellie says:

    dexter vandango

    Dsitance and time. They really are the only things that help sometimes.
    Death, dissolution.

    I dont know what else to say. It is so sad, and so awful.
    And yet this week a friend of mine had a child who died.
    He had been in a wheelchair for 11 years.
    Better or worse for him now?
    Relief and release???
    Who is the judge???

  37. Sister Wolf says:

    Kelie – Oh I’m so sorry to hear this. What a terrible loss. I believe his soul is free now. For the parents though, suffering without end.

  38. kellie says:

    This is how I choose to see it. 11 years, stuck, paralyzed from the waist down. I was so disgusted with him. For many years he was a huge druggie, and just a waste of space.
    I thought that he should have somehow been doing something better, different.

    now I wonder.
    would it have changed his outcome??

    who am I to judge??
    would I be any different?
    I would like to think the answer is yes, but I dont know.

  39. Sister Wolf says:

    Redhead Fashionista – Yep, yep, the prayers crap, very embarrassing and hollow in many cases.

  40. Sister Wolf says:

    Carrie – Same page, sister.

  41. Sister Wolf says:

    Wendy – You are more practical than most people. I have left the dry cleaning for weeks, even without a terrorist attack.

  42. Caroline says:

    I just feel helpless by all of this, I don’t have much money but I donated $10 to the Red Cross when I heard about the earthquake. I feel like I should donate more, $10 doesn’t like feel enough. 🙁 When there were floods in Queensland, a friend of mine donated all $600 of his birthday money towards victims of the floods. Don’t have that kind of money though…

    I don’t know what else to do. I’m so far away, I feel helpless. All I can do is follow Reuters. The distance does make me forget about what happened, if only for a little. My grandma is very sick atm so I go between being sad about her and worrying for Japan. very not fun. 🙁

  43. Dru says:

    Caroline, you gave what you could. Maybe it’s not as much as you’d like to do, but it’s something. I think most of us following the situation feel helpless- it’s only natural.

    (I’ve just come off a couple of manga/anime forums I visit, people were really worried about our Japanese members but so far they’re all confirmed safe- they’re strangers to me in real life but I’m hugely grateful to know they’re ok)

  44. Dru says:

    Incidentally, here is a real-time account from a gentleman who lives in Tokyo: (go back for his entries on the days of the quake).

    This isn’t even a quarter as bad as it got on the North-Eastern coast, but it’s still an eye-opener.

  45. lisa says:

    “I know that humans are wired like this, wired for adaptation to nearly any circumstances. Instead of celebrating this feature of humanity, I’ve always found it incredibly sad.”

    Me too 🙁

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