Keeping life in perspective

Published 4:04 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On March 11, just a few days ago, a 9.0-rated earthquake struck the coastal area of Sendai, Japan.

It happened at 2:46 in the afternoon, their time.

Life will never be the same for those people and, probably, for the entire population of Japan. There is nothing like Mother Nature for putting our lives in perspective.

Email newsletter signup

The devastation has been the major part of our news stories ever since it happened and, rightfully so. Here are some of the facts that I have garnered from Web sites.

The magnitude of the earthquake produced energy enough to provide power for the entire city of Los Angeles for a whole year. I don’t know how they figure those things, but that assessment of the energy production was according to the U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt.

Here is another estimation regarding the energy produced. It was 600 times more powerful than the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb and 186,400 times greater than the largest explosive device ever made by mankind.

Another amazing bit of information was that the northeast portion of Japan, the land mass itself, was moved 8 feet closer to North America. In addition, the length of the day was affected. I don’t think it made up for the loss of an hour on Sunday, but to think that the quake affected time, itself, is incredible.

None of those geophysical changes, however, can compare to the havoc that has been wreaked upon the lives of the people who live in that portion of Japan. Like just about every natural disaster, the loss of lives will never be known accurately, but even the numbers are not most important.

By that I mean that whether the number is in the hundreds of thousands or just in the hundreds, the number is significant. It only takes one family to be affected if it turns out to be mine or yours.

Natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, droughts, or whatever really put our lives into perspective. Diseases and death also do the same.

Before 2:46 Sendai, Japan, time on March 11, I would imagine the most important thoughts in the majority of the population’s minds would have been their own, individual worlds. The aches and pains of their bodies, the financial situations in their lives, the sons and daughters of their families, the jobs that they worked at so diligently; all these things would have comprised a list of priorities.

The Japanese people are no different from us. We are caught up in our small worlds and I’m not criticizing that, just saying it. I’m as bad or good as anyone else in looking at life from that really narrow point of view of me and mine.

Would I like an iPad or an iPod?

If I could buy a new car, what kind would I like?

I really need to have the carpet cleaned, but should I spend that money or rent a cleaner and do it myself?

My daughter needs to get braces.

What should I cook for dinner tonight?

Can we afford a vacation this year?

Just when I think I am getting a head, the warning light in the car comes on. How much is that going to cost?

I would think that some of the people in Japan, just a short week ago were asking themselves some of those same questions. Is there anything wrong with that? No. Not at all; that’s not what I’m saying. It’s just that life has a way of changing so quickly and our perspectives change with the hands we are dealt.

I have a friend who, at the age of 29, thought about where his next good time might be had. He lived a life that had no concerns whatsoever. One day, while riding a four-wheeler, he topped a hill for a standard jump over a shallow hole. The only problem was that the shallow hole had turned into a deep and dangerous chasm.

His life changed within moments as he went from riding wild and free to living life in a wheelchair with no feeling from the waist down. He went from having tons of friends and lots of fun to spending long periods of time with hardly anyone visiting and learning to live on a disability check. His perspective regarding life changed.

I remember another friend who had a flourishing business and a beautiful family. One evening he struggled with his dinner and was found to have a malignant cancer that took his life within months. His illness changed life for everyone around him and it happened so quickly.

On Valentine’s Day in the year 2000, I had just settled down to a good night’s sleep it seemed. The telephone rang and I was asked to go to the hospital in Camilla and help with a tornado that had come through. I had no idea what to do, but went and found a hospital with beds in every little nook and cranny they could put a bed. I’ve never been in a war zone, and I am sure a war zone is much different, but from my naïve perspective, that’s what I thought.

The next morning, when the sun had risen, I went out to see the places where Mother Nature had had her way. Where houses had once comfortably rested, there were now only remnants and rubble. I remember feeling very small and marveling at the strength of tornadoes.

Natural disasters and human conditions are such that we need to keep life in perspective. Life, even when lived to great lengths, is short. Even when we have plenty of all we need, having nothing is just a storm away. All of our care to take care of ourselves is important, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time can undo all our efforts.

I guess what I’m saying is appropriate as I think of Sendai, Japan, the Twin Towers on 9\11, or the doctor’s appointment where stage IV cancer is announced. There but for the grace of God go I. An attitude such as that should help me keep life in perspective.