In the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma ravaging the Caribbean islands, and parts of Texas and Florida; then Katia, Max and Norma following hot on the heels of Mexico’s massive earthquake, it’s natural to be overwhelmed by fear and anxiety – especially if it was close up and personal for you.
Such extreme loss of control over life as you knew it runs a high risk of triggering shock, denial and a host of stress related mental health issues on top of the practical and financial recovery process. After all home is a place that most of us spend our entire lives assuming is a place of safety, security and refuge – until a violent storm sweeps it all away or an earthquake swallows it up. We’re pretty powerless when nature is on the rampage.
To try and keep a sense of perspective at times like this is a tall order.
But we need to remember that this restless, unpredictable planet we live on has been prone to devastating natural disasters throughout its life – severe storms, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados, fires, drought or volcanic eruptions. It’s just that now news coverage takes us right into the eye of the storm, and even those of us on the other side of the planet can live through each phase of the disaster as it unfolds. We’ve become virtual hurricane hunters.
Because of this, we’re all keenly aware of the negative impact of natural disasters like these, on a physical, material, financial and emotional level.
But have you noticed something from the footage? Have you noticed that amid all the trauma, tragedy and desperation there are stories of mind-boggling bravery, resourcefulness and incredible community spirit?
Life or death situations have a way of adjusting our perspective; of bringing people together, and giving birth to unlikely heroes.
While not minimising the tragedy and devastation in any way, is it possible that experiences like these could stop our petty, tribal bickering and blaming, enabling us to rediscover the power of synergy and teamwork?
Just as buildings constructed after earthquake destruction are designed with greater emphasis on anti-seismic measures is it possible that there is a psychological equivalent? An increased emphasis on resilience, empathy, teamwork, and community spirit; a desire to focus on and contribute to cultural commonalities – instead of disparities?
The mental and emotional legacy of experiences like this may not be as photogenic, but are likely to linger for a long time.
Perhaps it’s an opportunity for a kind of global Kintsukuroi – the fascinating Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with ‘veins’ of silver or gold lacquer. It’s the exact opposite of our disposable, perfection driven Western mindset. Kintsukuroi emphasises that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.
This is powerfully symbolic; embracing and finding beauty in damage, and creating something that is even better than it was before.