Now, I'm not making a direct allusion between Atlantis and the recent events of Japan. It's more between Atlantis and the rest of the world. See, mankind is blessed with the ability to learn, understand, and control. In a relatively short time span, we have created hardier crops to increase our food supply. We have harnessed the laws of physics to do things using nature that people thought could only be done by magic. We build empires every day, from land to financial to social.
And here comes the world to remind us that we aren't that powerful after all.
We aren't the masters of our worlds. Not even close. As we grow up, we learn about things. We heed those warning voices. And yet, for all our sophistication and intelligence, we are still just as vulnerable as those days when we first came into the world. It can all be gone in a flash. And it will be something you never saw coming and something you couldn't have done anything to stop.
Something like 9/11 happens. We can point all the fingers we want, but honestly, I don't think it would have made any difference. The terrorists wanted to shock America and the world and would not have stopped until they did so. There was an earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004. New Orleans. The hurricane that actually made it up to New York (New Yorkers may be able to handle winter driving better than Southerners, but they couldn't handle the hurricane. Meanwhile, the Southerners were thinking, "You bunch of pussies think THAT'S bad?!? Come down here in season some time!"). The Haiti disaster. The tsunami disaster of Indonesia in October 2010. Australia. The Arizona Massacre. And just when everyone thinks that, yeah, Indonesia was bad, but it was okay, only 400 people died (what a terrible thing to think, "only 400 people died"), along comes an 8.9 hitting Japan almost as if on a dare. "Fine, you want widespread destruction? I'll give it to you."
Watching the video is just a mindnumbing revelation of how helpless we truly are. Usually, footage of Japan will show you the busy cities or the quiet traditional country or the weirdness of their fandoms. None of that, just pictures of people. People like you and me. People that could have been and might still someday be us, trying to survive something that can't be reasoned with or stopped. Helping each other to safety. Protecting each other from inhuman threat. Crying for their losses.
I saw the wave overtaking the airport. I saw the wave sweeping an entire parking lot of cars around like soap bubbles in the sink. Buildings cracking. A skyscraper wobbling like a Jenga tower. People in anguish. You don't need to understand Japanese, their pain is a universal language.
And yet, there's still a sort of insulating layer. The Internet, thanks to blogging and YouTube and all kinds of things, lets us all see and experience things, as close as we can get without actually being there. But it's still the Internet. Everything is just another TV channel, they aren't necessarily people. We watch, we think about how terrible it is, but we are still safe in our own homes, with heat and food and loved ones and other things we still have and they don't.
But we don't know how long we have them. Something like 9/11 or the Oklahoma City or the Arizona Massacre can happen. Here in Illinois, we are on a tectonic fault line that is actually bigger and more unstable than the San Andreas. In my lifetime, I recall at least two times and possibly a third where an earthquake hit here. I remember the first time. What happened passed the duck test ("If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, chances are you're dealing with a duck"). It felt like an earthquake, even though I'd never felt one before. But this is Illinois. That can't happen out here. Then I found out about the fault line and that not only could it happen here, but it was likely to happen again. I don't recall another earthquake in Los Angeles, but we've had one or two since. The last one happened when I was visiting Mornblade and his lovely wife. It hit, they looked around in shock, and I didn't even budge on their couch as I thought, "Oh. Another earthquake." It didn't occur to me until the next morning how arrogantly blaise my reaction was. I mean, not only have we had more earthquakes in the same time span than LA, but I don't think Chicago buildings are engineered to withstand earthquakes. Combine that with Chicago being, essentially, a floating city, and one good pop could make the city go Atlantis on is.
We are not the masters of our worlds. We just live here, hoping against all hope to make something of our limited time here. And you never know when it will end, when something will remind you just how small you are.
My heart goes out to all victims. Those who came before. Those who just arrived. And those who haven't gotten here yet.