This weekend, at the Heiwa Peace Garden on our small island, we will commemorate the disaster at Fukushima, Japan. I was invited to make a statement before a moment of silence was offered in memory of this terrible event that will not stop resounding for quite some time. It was an honour to be asked, and so the only way to answer it was to speak from the heart. I’m posting here what I’ve written with the sincere hope that it may help to bring about something good:
Memory as a Seed for the Future
What can be said when disaster strikes? What needs to be said? Usually, not so much. We stand silently in awe at the enormous power of tsunamis, earthquakes, forest fires, tornadoes, as nature has its way. We see the power of nature at these moments, but we must remember that we also see the power of nature in the very small – in a snowflake or lady bug, the glance of an eye, in the ability for a seed to grow into food, or into the enormity of a cedar with its sheltering limbs.
But, we are nature, too, of course, and as such, we have some power, some ability to use our human nature, which includes the ability to learn from the past and remember, to understand and not ever forget what we most value in life, what kind of world we want for our children and for all of earth’s creatures: a world where peace presides, where weaponry has been put aside, where clear thinking, seeing and foresight leads to the kind of good decisions that promote life and diminish that which has even the smallest chance of causing harm to anyone, to everyone.
One way to think about Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that Japanese people were sacrificed so that all may see the horror of nuclear war. It is not the only way to think about it, but it is one way. Now, less than seventy years later, we have the great misfortune of seeing Japanese people sacrificed yet again, perhaps this time so that all may see the horror of so-called nuclear peace when faced with actual life and its circumstances, as opposed to some drawing board dream of nuclear perfection.
It is a horrible sacrifice to have to make, and I grieve for those directly harmed. Still, one year later, I cannot help but shake my head in disbelief at the magnitude of the disaster that continues even as we stand here on our peaceful island.
Let us not be powerless in the face of such knowledge. Let us determine to use nature’s power in human form to dedicate ourselves to clear thinking, understanding, and foresight; to allowing compassion to guide our decisions, and to the far seeing vision of true leaders – elders and young ones alike – so that the likelihood of such disasters is erased from our world. Among all their other miraculous powers, certainly the powers of the human heart and mind are meant for this.
In the silence that follows now, please allow a seed of such compassion, of such clarity, foresight and vision to be born in this circle, and let us seek a way, together, to plant that seed on this island, to the benefit of life everywhere, for all of time. If we say we cannot, we never will. If we say we can, we just may discover how.
Teacher, Salt Spring Zen Circle