As we turn the chapter on 2012, the name Sandy will forever live in infamy. Sadly, 2012, was not just the name of a science fiction movie, but the year when America came to know Sandy, intimately. Our introduction to Sandy was brief, but deadly. If you have read my book, Spun: 101 Movies to Recreate Your Reality, then you know that science fiction writers use the genre to gaze into the future and sound the alarm when they see society placing itself in danger, as the movie, 2012, which proved eerily prescient, with its prediction of a natural disaster resulting from climate change.
On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy made landfall and swept across the East Coast, leaving behind a path of death and destruction. Not to be outdone, a homicidal maniac targeted Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, several weeks later. By the time the winds calmed and the waters receded, Sandy left behind over $60 billion in damages and a death toll of at least 125 people. After the gunsmoke cleared, 27 people were shot dead, including 20 schoolchildren. Thus, a lone gunman with three weapons, wreaked more havoc in a few minutes, what it took Superstorm Sandy days to accomplish.
How does one recover from such unthinkable loss and devastation? Memories and possessions washed away at sea. Young lives snuffed out like candles in the wind. The tragedy of the situation is that we expect home and school to be a sanctuary. This way we can lock out the monsters. Anytime we feel like a good scare, we watch horror movies from the safety of a movie theater. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of that privilege, anymore. While we love being frightened out of our wits by the supernatural world, as depicted in the film, The Woman in Black, we discover that the real danger lies in the natural world.
When a storm penetrates and invades the walls of a home, it is like a monster being on the loose. Just as a monster targets and preys upon the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of its victims, Superstorm Sandy was no less discriminating. Neither was the gunman, who entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and committed the most monstrous act on that fateful day. Those sweet, innocent babies were forced to stare into the eyes of this crazed monster, just before they closed their own.
How could they have known that their society fights vociferously to protect the lives of the unborn and a killer’s right to possess his weapons than it does to shield them from such deadly menace? How could they have known that the gun industry would receive a surge in sales even before they were laid to rest? How could the Founding Fathers have known that their simple flintlock muskets and gunpowder would morph into today’s sophisticated killing machines, with exotic names like, Sig Sauer, Glock, and Bushmaster?
From the beginning of time, our storytelling has depicted drowning as being one of our greatest fears. In the Christian tradition, the symbolic act of drowning is performed during baptism to signify rebirth and renewal. In movies, a storm may portend impending disaster, which usually reveals the true character of those affected by it. When a storm turns out to be a destructive force, it is seen as offering the opportunity for a fresh beginning. Thus, the rain can also be viewed as a cleansing and restorative agent.
In Ordinary People, the Jarrett family is torn apart after the accidental drowning of the favorite older son and attempted suicide by the younger son. The mother withdraws emotionally from the world, as a way to cope with her grief. The younger son is left bereft, suffering from survivor’s guilt. His father watches helplessly as the family disintegrates around him. As the family members drown in their own sorrow, one is hard-pressed to decide whether they will survive their ordeal.
In the Rabbit Hole, Becca Corbett is coping with the loss of her four-year old son, after he is struck and killed by a passing car in front of the home. She finds no solace for her grief, even after she joins a self-help group. She rejects a member’s blind faith in an omniscient God, who has shown no mercy. She rages at the absurdity and injustice of it all. Against her will, Becca is being forced to confront the nature of suffering and what it means to be human. Being alive requires that we participate in the eternal drama. For Becca, her way to healing is through the path of forgiveness.
What does losing a loved one feel like? It is a pain beyond reason. It feels like you’re plunging deep beneath the ocean into your own watery grave. Even though you wish for sweet oblivion, you discover you are a fish able to survive underwater. That’s because separation and loss are part of being human. It’s the price we must pay for experiencing life, which seeks full expression of its own nature. So, it waits with bated breath for you to emerge from the abyss. You have been called to bear witness. You are the sacrificial lamb. What secret aspect of its nature will you behold? What meaning will you assign to the experience? Meanwhile, “Father Time” waits patiently in the wings to heal your wounds by gently dimming your memories.
When tragedy strikes, we tend to draw together and encircle those in need of our love and support. It helps to quiet the mind and soothe the soul of those afflicted. What Sandy has taught us about life is that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. So, we’re all in this together. Are we going to stand by impotently, while our towns become like Baghdad, with these random acts of violence? Even though we could not protect our young from a deranged killer, surely we can implement sensible measures to prevent it from happening, again. Our main concern should be the protection of innocent citizens, not lining the pockets of the merchants of death.
Our storytelling abounds with tales of human beings having to cope with death and disaster. Like us, they struggled to make sense of their pain and suffering. That is why they created rites and rituals, throughout the ages. In the movie 300, the Spartans find meaning in their warrior code of honor, duty, glory. They see life as a contest of wills. This allows them to live fearlessly. Surrender and retreat are not part of their vocabulary. They draw a line in the sand and stand their ground. Can we do any less?
The Spartans have come and gone, but here you are for one brief glimmering moment in time and space. Who dare fathom your travails? Who shall grant you rest? The agony in your heart builds to a mighty roar, until it reverberates across the heavens. Your soul fragments. Yet, you remain like an immovable rock, as the waters rush over you. Any sign of weakness and the tide sweeps you out to sea. Time stands still. You have an encounter with the Self. You pierce the veil, catching a glimpse of your secret nature. There’s no turning back. Once you are drawn into the the divine mystery, your life will never be the same.
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