What Extreme Natural Phenomena Can Teach Us About Change
Over the past two weeks there have been some minor earthquakes in the area where I live. I can't say that I even felt them, although I was woken up rather abruptly a few nights ago – why I couldn't say. So I will take the word of local news channels. Then there are the Thai youth football team, forced to wander deeper into the Tham Luang Nang Non cave, because of flooding caused by rain which blocked their exit. As of yesterday, a daring rescue operation brought them to safety: despite the ongoing downpour of the monsoon. This achievement can summed up in briefly as follows: persistence, technology & hard work. The will of humankind determined to overcome the hand of nature. There's more: recently, I read about a sinkhole that has opened up near the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, apparently as a result of the numerous earthquakes that have taken place since the eruption of Kīlauea around two months ago. The list of natural occurrences are endlessly disruptive and they are real levellers. No place or person is immune or exempt, not even a normative individual like you or me, just getting along with our life...
So, what's in it for us? What can we take away from the world being as it is – so full of potential natural disasters? A brief digression, if you don't mind... The word volcano derives as many words often do from mythology. Vulcan was the Roman god of flames, fire and metal-working. When the word volcano was coined, whether the intention was to depict the volcano like an angry, tempestuous god throwing flames and shaping metal without any sensitivity to his surroundings, or whether the intention was to relay an industrious super-worker doing what he does best in his forge; albeit a bit too zealously, allowing his work to spill over out into the streets, I couldn't tell you. But, another clue can be gathered from the etymology of the word lava. Lava like Vulcan, also has Italian origins. Lavare means to wash and lava was the word used to describe a torrent of rain pouring over the winding, narrow streets of Naples. In terms of lava and volcanoes, lava is the hot, molten liquid overflowing from Mount Vesuvius causing streams of endless damage from which no nook and no cranny was safe. Taking both of these etymological descriptions into consideration, it conjures up a scenario in which force majeur has the upper hand – not in a malicious way, but just as a matter of fact. Volcanoes will erupt. Lava will flow: it will get everywhere. It will wash over the land. The rest of us will initially scramble and then resettle, trying to salvage where possible, but mostly focusing on rebuilding.
The reaction to these devastating incidents largely depends on the choices that we make. Those of us who do not live in the fear of a volcanic eruption at our front yard, are never quite as stoic and accepting, as those who have been raised on the foot of the crater and for them – like it or not – this is home! For millions of people raised to do earthquake drills, this is simple another aspect of life – par for the course. Apathy, denial or acceptance – what does it matter? It's just a fact.
But, to be perfectly frank, we all live with uncertainty. Maybe an active volcano is a hardcore for most, but some people live on the coast where tsunamis could happen. Others live over well-known earth faults. What about tornadoes, hurricanes and monsoon season? Mud slides, sand storms and flash-floods? For the anxiety-ridden person, the risks are endless – and that is even before you take into account other more hum drum ways to meet disaster – like diseases and disruptive incidents such as car accidents or falling off a step ladder.
If you think about it, we should all be burying our heads somewhere in the sand – not quicksand, mind you. Life can be scary crazy. And yet, the vast majority of us just go about our regular day, without registering these things. Most of us. True, some of us cannot get beyond the risks and are overwhelmed with fears. Still others, find ways to cocoon and shield themselves from external contaminants – or so they think. I wrote about this in my first novel, (shameless plug...) 'The Perfection of the Glass Lemons.' Sometimes the fear of change can be paralysing and debilitating. It is imperative to learn to deal with change – any change, not just extreme change. Not only for personal growth, but also for personal acceptance. Generally speaking, living one's life without being preoccupied by "what if" is the healthier option.
But, regardless of where each one of us are at, I contend that the world and its natural phenomena, are pre-cursors to natural growth and resilience. They prepare us to deal with disruption and change of all kinds – not just the extreme kind. They prepare us for 'any kind of weather' by teaching us to learn how to deal, what to do in real time, and – in the aftermath – to accept and move forward.