Thursday, May 5, 2011

sugar i love

Since a few months after I started living in San Francisco, on every Thursday, I would wait for a column to be up on one of my favorite websites, The Rumpus (in fact, I'm such a big fan that I should link to their site from here, so I just did). Now that I"m back in Japan, because of the time difference, I have to wait until Friday morning. So I try to be patient and wait for another night.

The column is written by a woman named Sugar. She is an amazing, brave, beautiful person and writer. I have dropped tears so many times reading her column, sometimes at home while putting on a make-up, other times at work behind the computer screen.

This week, she wrote to English/creative writing majors who are about to graduate. It rang with me so well not so much because I am a former English/creative writing major who was anxious about the future as because encouragement in her words felt just so appropriate for the current situation of my country where many are still left grieving with the future taken away from their hands unbearably violently and unexpectedly.

And it just happens that the people Sugar directly addressed the piece to are the ones who studied at University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa, the city severely attacked by the terrible tornado at the end of last month. I think it's a great gift. Although they may not be in the state where words are the first thing they ask for, I believe words will still help them keep standing, or collapse down and cry if that's what they need to do.
The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.
Her words are beautiful, but I know it's not words that matter after all. It's what's behind, and hers have love, always. I'm grateful for Sugar, and I hope her words reach the ones who need them the most.

Monday, May 2, 2011

dealing with tragedy

Bin Laden is dead.

When I read the news on Twitter, I was struck by the empty feeling I always feel when I hear news of someone's death. Every time I get shocked, by the fact that someone who has been alive and breathing until just a second ago can be gone in the next. I was by no means sad, knowing what he has done, but when I began to see reactions from American people on the internet, I couldn't help but feel a wave of estrangement.Those were words of joy, excitement and celebration, none of which, to me, fit the occasion--whoever it was that died, it was an occasion of a death (or, in fact, four deaths, as the news later reported).

For all he did, he probably deserved to die. The world is most likely safer and better off without him. He was, after all, the leader of a bunch of terrorists.

But then, who ever deserves to die, really?

Two weeks after the earthquake on March 11, a boy gave a speech at his graduation ceremony at a junior-high in a town by the northern coast where so many people died from the tsunami. Tearful and clenching his teeth with sadness, he said;

"The disaster took away too many precious things from us. It was brutal. We are sad. It is really, really painful. But in this hardship, we should not resent. We should accept what happened and live on, supporting each other. I believe that's the mission for those of us who survived."

The situation is not the same. It wasn't other human beings that cast the tragedy upon us. It wasn't anybody's hatred. There would be no way of revenge even if we wanted it--how would we chase down, catch and kill nature? We never know if Japan wouldn't have wanted a revenge if it had been a human being attacking and causing this much devastation to our country, so it's not about Japan and America. It's about how we get over such devastation, the kind that keeps you up all night in fear and makes you bawl in helplessness and despair.

It's hard not to resent when you are in so much pain and sadness. It's hard not to hate when you lost things that were precious to you. But in all the brutality of what had happened, this fifteen-year-old guy refused to resent, and I find it extremely brave, because it's probably even harder. Resentment, anger, hatred, things like these can get you moving. It takes energy to give up on these and still try to move forward.

But that is the start, I believe, if we want to step ahead for the better.

So maybe we should stop rejoicing over another death, because after all what's behind the seemingly exhilarating joy is hatred, and such joy is in fact empty. This death doesn't cancel thousands and thousands that preceded. This death doesn't bring us back what we've lost.

The sad, but maybe comforting, fact is that there seems to be only a little we can do when something extremely sad falls upon us. We can just grieve and cry over whatever makes us cry writhing and fists gripping for as long as we need to, somehow leave that behind, and keep on.

That's the only way out, and we are all brave enough for that.