Like many people whose eyes, ears, and fingertips are connected by the vast Interwebs, I heard the news of yesterday’s devastating Haiti earthquake via Twitter.
7.0. OMFG. I’ve been in a 5.5. I know that 6-point-something is pretty damaging. Every point-something is a factor of 10 in magnitude. So this 7.0, in a country where most people are painfully poor and (I imagine) live in the kind of rickety shack housing I’ve seen elsewhere in the Caribbean, is huge.
And it is. According to what little I have read (and I avoid TV news like the plague), 100,000 people could already have died. And the inevitable deaths from disease due to damaged water systems, lack of food and shelter, could raise the figure precipitously.
I am trying to figure out how I feel about this. What I feel.
In 2001, when we all saw surreal footage of airplanes flying into tall buildings that had become part of an iconic skyline, I felt something. That night I lay in bed and imagined helping herald 2000 confused souls into a warm light-filled embrace, and helping tens of thousands more through those first days of shock and outrage. In the days that followed, it became easy. All that shock and outrage got funneled into hating someone and something that someone else decided we should be hating anyway.
That’s how wars start.
But how do you hate an earthquake?
We can’t hate the earth, because it’s our home. It sustains us.
Less than two weeks ago I channeled information about people — many people — choosing to exit their earthly lives this year. In working with this kind of information, I try to remain a little distant and not feel the pain and grief associated with such an eventuality. When just one person dies, many grieve. I’ve protected myself from feeling that on a grand scale. My fear is that I’d be overwhelmed by the immensity of such pain on that large a scale. Many people transitioning? There are 7 billion or so on the planet now. A few thousand here or there doesn’t make much difference overall. Many people would have to be … many.
100,000 beautiful, alive, loving people in Haiti died yesterday, ending lives that had love and pain and laughter and tears. And it wasn’t an ethereal Rapture, where they simply got lifted up into some alternate reality. No, a good many of these people likely died in pain. That’s twice as many people as live in the small city that is my home, and it’s pain that I am afraid to feel.
What is compassion?
I think about Haiti, just as I thought about the Christmas tsunami a few years ago. I hear a big ‘should’ in my head. I should be feeling this, because I can. It’s my job, my livelihood, to tap into a global consciousness, or into the energy body of a single person. To me, it’s all the same.
And yet, I don’t.
Last night I approached a woman, older than me, who I knew had been having some physical issues. I asked how she was. I could see how she was, could see where there were energy blockages. I asked her permission to touch her, and I briefly touched points on her shoulders and down her back. I asked about her feet because I could feel immense pain there. I wept, not from the pain but from the sense of it.
I can feel pain without feeling it. Strange, that.
And yet I don’t go to Haiti. This makes me smaller somehow, less human, I fear.
Last night I also wrote a column in which I cried about some of my fears. Fears of my own fragility. In the light of the new day I can see that this was, in some way, an expression of my response to Haiti. I know we all process everything that comes into our being — from near or far, it’s all the same — through our personal perception lenses. That’s not being selfish, it’s being human. We can’t help it. So I transferred the cries of tens of thousands of throats into one cry from a single throat, crying, “Who will help me when I have need?”
I could rationalize that just as children are better off when you let them make their own lives and their own mistakes, that I should keep my virtual hands off Haiti and let things transpire there as they will. I am not Atlas and I cannot hold the world on my shoulders. I have trouble some days with my own piece of the world.
At the risk of sounding trite, or incomplete, I can love. In the end, that’s all any of us can do. For some, love will be a $10 donation to the Red Cross. For others, it’s being airlifted along with dogs and rescue teams to pull people out from under buildings. For still others, it’s prayer. And for others, it’s a blink in the daily crush of living. Who am I to determine which facet of love has more merit?