Journal Musings


As of this writing 55,000 people have been confirmed dead from the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia and other countries by the Indian Ocean. The number seems likely to climb to 100,000. But 55,000 is hard to imagine. 55,000. It is all happening out there in the Asian night, millions of people in pain, waiting, in grief over their lost ones, or in terrible anxiety over whether their loved ones lost to the sea will return. And among them perhaps some of my Indonesian and Sri Lankan friends. I hope not. I dearly hope not.

CNN shows the news about it all, as does, intermittently, Japan’s national television station NHK. But the news is flippant, the CNN newscasters speaking as if the whole event is some exciting head rush, the questions about the dead glossed over with little time to actually feel anything. NHK has been giving the required time to air the information, but aside from announcing the number of Japanese dead, it is right back to regular programs. It was show interrupting news when the earthquake hit the Niigata area last month and the news carried the scenes for days. But this, perhaps the worst calamity in human history, receives the cold shoulder. In comparison the news played and played, all over the world, the inconsequential New York tragedy as if it was the end of the world, over and over again until the images can never be cleared from our minds. But this tsunami disaster seems to move few people in the same way. They are only poor people in a “faraway” place, after all. They don’t deserve 24 hour news coverage by every television station.

I’ve been racking my brains over what to do. I’ve contacted some of my Indonesia and Sir Lankan friends and asked if there was something I could do from my end. I’ve proposed setting up a Yahoo! discussion group for people seeking family and friends lost in the tsunami. I’ve donated to several relief groups. ANd I’ve thought of proposing to bloggers to think of going on vacation to the affected areas next year and instead of doing the usual vacation stuff, actively participating in some volunteer relief help. I’m sure the whole area is going to need massive amounts of help and resources in rebuilding all the settlements and infrastructure. Many of the people are too poor to get back what they lost.

But this is just not enough. There must be something more we can do. I was thinking of going hiking today, but I may just sit here at home and brainstorm. I don’t want to feel helpless again like after the New York tragedy or the attack on Iraq. This is something we can all actually do something about.

Journal Nature

The Little People Are Real

Flores FeetAll my life the lure of the old stories about dwarves and giants and elves and ogres always held a unreasoning fascination that seemed all out of proportion to the experience of daily life. Just what is it that draws so many people to love these old stories? It is almost as if some genetic memory from a world far more ecologically diverse and integrated than our world today stimulates us to feel fascination when we stir up pictures of these mythical relatives. And every culture has them; all of us talk about the Little People and the Magical Folk.

So it is with great delight (so much so that I jumped up from my chair in front of the computer and cried out “FANTASTIC!” when I came across the news of the discovery in Indonesia of Homo florensiensis today (Other sites include The Panda’s Thumb, National Geographic, and Nature). Here is a three foot tall homonid who lived as recently as 13,000 years ago, during which they probably had interaction with Homo sapiens.

Flores Sapiens

It is like discovering that when children tell you that they saw a little man under the bed they were telling the truth. So the dwarves and giants of the old stories really did exist. Now we just have to find the dragons.

With all the hyper activity and meaninglessness of the American election campaign; with the ongoing suffering of the people in Niigata (area north of Tokyo) subject now to a week of unrelenting earthquakes (over 100 quakes measuring at least 5 on the Richter Scale, and 5 quakes measuring at least 6) and more than 80,000 people evacuated, half of whom are living on the streets with snow in the forecast; and with, until last weekend, more than four months of unbelievable amounts of torrential rains and monster typhoons, this little bit of magical news is a welcome change. It’s good to see that there is still at least a bit of mystery and wonder in the world. I hope this discovery leads to more unexpected stepping stones in our understanding of ourselves and our world.

Flores reconstruction