Thursday, January 14, 2010


The scenes of devastation in Haiti hardly seem real. As a resident of Southern California -- another tectonically unpredictable region -- this story hits too close to home. I can hardly process this kind of news. An entire city leveled by an earthquake in a matter of seconds? Thousands dead and dying beneath tons of rubble? How does anyone make sense of it? Like Katrina, like the 2004 Tsunami, like the 2009 Australian bushfires, the Haitian earthquake proves that nature is capriciously vicious. Even the rocks my daughter made shapes with on the sidewalk yesterday are the result of millions of years of chaotic, species-eradicating cataclysms.

I have a hard time making sense of random destruction. What happened in Haiti isn't the kind of everything-happens-for-a-reason plot point in a novel. It isn't a scene from a film by Roland Emmerich. It's not one of those scary bible stories told in Southern Baptist Sunday School. It's real and it's happening right now halfway across the world. It's happening as I sit in my comfy bed munching on Lays potato chips and wrestling with the same kind of existential questions that have plagued humankind since the first guy crawled out of a cave and wondered why he was able to get out when the other guy was eaten by a saber tooth tiger.

Grace doesn't always make sense. And sometimes karma seems to be rife with loopholes.

So, I count my blessings and ache for those who have lost so much. I also look for ways to make a difference. If you are looking too -- here are a few links to organizations that need our help:

Yele Haiti is Haitian-born Wyclef Jean's community service organization. You can make donations to the site -- if it's not down from too much traffic. (Keep trying.) You can also text YELE to 501501

Doctors Without Borders is asking for donations to assist their Haiti Earthquake Response team. The organization needs funds to dispatch additional emergency staff, including a surgical team and equipment to establish a 100-bed inflatable tent hospital with two operating rooms.

Oxfam needs help with setting up public health, sanitation and clean water services.

The American Red Cross is already out of medical supplies, affecting the organization's ability to assist critically injured patients in Haiti.

Mother nature may be able to destroy -- but her children are pretty good at helping to rebuild. In fact, that may be the only thing that makes sense to me at times like this. Feel free to add more links to reputable charities in comments.

Update: Increase the generosity! Jon reminded me that many employers -- especially larger companies -- will match your charitable contribution. Keep your receipts and be sure to ask your HR people about it.


Neoslinger said...

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They are very comfortable to wear and can actually be worn for extended periods of time.

Judy Williams said...

I donated money to yesterday as they and the Red Cross were the only two I could find in the early hours of the news broadcasts. I am just at wits end watching what nature's massacre has done to an already struggling country. There have been many aid planes that have landed but the supplies are just sitting there because there isn't an organization of people to get them where they need to go. I am hoping that will change today. I love that countries from throughout the world are coming to their defense but I hope that somehow someone or some group can gather all of the things being brought and disperse them where needed. I can't bear the thought of those poor people having no food, water or shelter.

They will be in my thoughts for the coming months. I am sending them light and love. :)

Your beautiful and simple heart of pebbles just brings me to tears. It would make a beautiful book jacket or even a poster.

Dixie Jane said...

Your heart of pebbles touches mine.

Dirk said...

"...the Haitian earthquake proves that nature is capriciously vicious."

Nature is neither capricious nor vicious; only humanity (along with a very few species of animal) has those qualities. Nature is simply the planet we live on, and it doesn't take any notice of human lives or human feelings. I understand the inclination to rage against the earth for doing such a thing to innocent people (I grew up in SoCal and was in the Loma Prieta quake in '89), but it's not rational.

All sympathy to the people of Haiti.

Judy Williams said...

Groups Providing Basic Needs

Please help!!

Mike said...

Dirk dude you completely missed the point.Ever heard of metaphor?

Laurie this is beautiful. It's a great way to explain the way many of us feel about trying to make sense of senseless disaster and wondering why some are spared suffering and some are not. Human beings look for patterns and a greater meaning in things even though it isn't "rational." I remember the Northridge earthquake as I lived near UCLA at the time. I always wondered how buildings stayed up with all of that violent shaking.

Nature can be a bitch. No Dirk I don't literally mean nature is a female dog.

Another great post Laurie.

altadenahiker said...

Not to get between Dirk and Mike, but I tend to see things as "The benign indifference of the universe." Which means should be all that much more kind and gentle with one another.

I don't know how they're going to untangle the horror in Haiti, but damn it, some people are trying.

Laurie said...

A lot of people direct these kinds of "why why why" questions at God. Agnostics, as well as fiction writers, often direct those feelings at the idea of earth as a temperamenta being. (Just spend a summer in Texas and tell me nature isn't capriciously vicious!!!)

This was supposed to be about charity, not my clumsy writing. But thanks, Mike, for picking up on what I was stumbling towards...

Laurie said...

And dang, AH, you always say things so well. Hat tip.

Dirk said...

@Mike: actually I did get the point of the post...that one about struggling with existential questions? I live in the same world you do, so I have those questions too. I should have been clearer, maybe. My point is, if one literally believes nature to be capricious and vicious, then that's the answer to the existential questions--bad stuff happens because nature hates humanity (or something like that?). Life would be simpler if that were true; we probably wouldn't even be using a word like "existential."

In fact, it's not true; that's *why* we keep asking existential questions, because we don't know "why" these things happen to people who don't deserve them.

Anyway, my comment was not meant to be a criticism of anyone's thoughts or writing; think of it as my contribution to the discussion of existential questions.

Laurie said...

DIrk, I should have properly welcomed you earlier! Blame it on my being flummoxed from too much news footage of things that are impossible to comprehend without wanting to hide under the covers. Anyway, I love discussion of all kinds and appreciate having you here.

Mister Earl said...

Thanks, Laurie, for the post, and the sentiments. I'm surprised the nitril exam gloves are still on the board, but I guess they will come in handy for relief workers or something.

Thinking about the earthquake damage, I think much of the issue is economic. Poor countries, with poor building codes, have a much tougher time with major quakes. It would be nice if we could help these countries build better buildings before we need to give them aid.

Moving to the philosophical: Think of a large school of fish. A bigger fish comes along and ingests many fish from the school. We know why this happens. It's just part of nature. Luckily for the fish, they can't contemplate why some members of the school were taken and others were not. Unfortunately for humans, we can wonder about these things.

I've been thinking about what God or a higher power is lately, and I've come to the conclusion that God is simply what is. Accepting God is accepting the nature of things as they are and doing what you can to make things better within the parameters of the way things are.

End Clicking.

Laurie said...

Lovely thoughts, Earl. Thanks for clickclicking!

alex said...

Insightful post, as always, but even more so given the heavy subject matter. It reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my med school classmates yesterday about the quake. He said rather off-handedly, "why does Mother Nature have a thing against the poor? First the tsunami, then Katrina, and now this."

Having read your post (and the above comments regarding agnostics' and writers' perceptions of mother nature as having temperaments), I have always perceived people, or "humans", as as just one piece of the puzzle that is mother nature. After all, we are just one of many species wandering about this world. Yet unlike many other living things, we are blessed with the ability to question, understand, and (at least try to) interpret what happens around us. When unexpected events happen, we scrutinize and strive to identify reasons for why they have occurred.

Of course, people also have a whole diversity of perspectives and schools of thought. So it goes without saying that each individual will interpret the events in Haiti through with different perceptions or, as scholars would say, unique social and cultural lenses. As a quick non-sequitur, the Catholic church recently criticized the blockbuster Avatar for promoting the worshiping of the environment. To me, faith in God or Mother Nature are equally insightful. It helps us better make sense of events such as this.

Laurie said...

Thanks, Alex!

I always love the conversations and musings that develop here. The great thing about blogging is its interactive nature -- as opposed to print where you never know if anyone reads what you've written, much less what they might actually think about it. So often I'm inspired by a commenter's ideas in ways that I never would have thought of on my own. Truth is subjective. I think that's the main thing I've learned as I've gotten older.

Photography is a subjective medium, but it rarely inspires people to argue -- unless it's to nitpick cropping or editing. Photoblogging is such a great new art form, in my opinion. Bridging image with prose and calling in readers/viewers to contribute opinions ... I just love it.

Thanks again, everyone. Until tomorrow. (I'll be less long-winded. I promise.)

Mister Earl said...

No, be long winded!!

And Alex, if you're thinking those kinds of thoughts and you're in med school, you're in big trouble. ;-)