“Get out now. Don’t bother to pack your bags. Just gather your family and leave”.
- Queensland Premier Anna Bligh to residents in low-lying parts of north Queensland at 12.39pm today.
If last month’s flooding wasn’t enough to test the Queensland spirit, our fellow statesmen and women up north are now battening down the hatches, as the worst cyclone in generations bears down on the coastline.
I’ve just been watching the news, which is running continuous updates of ever increasing wind speeds, and tracking movement of Cyclone ‘Yasi’ as it appraoaches at a steady 30km/hour towards the towns of Innisfail and Cairns.
Patients from the Cairns hospital have been evacuated to Brisbane and those who have remained in their homes can do no more now than to somberly await Yasi which is tipped to hit at around 10pm tonight. News articles tell residents ‘Not to panic if their roof lifts off’ (easier said than done!!) and how to prepare a ‘safe room’. It seems so surreal.
Picture above: patients from the Cairns hospital have been flown out already, including the seriously ill, patients in intensive care and pregnant woman. Many of them will no doubt be without their families and be feeling terribly scared.
As I look out my window and see the sun cheerily shining down on Brisbane city, just a few hours south of the cyclone’s path, it’s hard to conceive what destruction lies ahead, and what those who have stayed behind must be thinking and feeling.
What Do Natural Disasters ‘Mean‘?
How can we make sense of Cyclone Yasi, especially when our state is only just beginning to get back on its feet after the recent devastation of the floods? It’s hard to believe Queensland is going to be hit with the full force of mother nature again – and so soon!
However, there was something that I took from the recent floods (and it’s an observation that no doubt many others will be making in the countdown to Yasi). When something as terrible as a natural disaster happens occurs, people act in one of two ways: Either they view the world as a terrible, vindictive place where the innocent suffer and disaster is only ever just around the corner— or they view the experience as an opportunity to demonstrate and embody love.
Natural disasters hold within them the gift of helping us realise that we’re all in the experience of life together and it’s one time that it’s easy to see that when one person suffers we all feel the reverberations of their pain. It’s a time when status, money, appearances and other things we deem important fall away and become inconsequential. The structures that we use to make sense of the world and run our societies become redundant. Existing is all that matters.
Becoming Aware (Sometimes In Painful Ways) Of Our Shared Humanity.
Disasters of human making, like wars, tend to see us taking sides and losing touch with our compassion. When idealism, religion or money is involved, our hearts and minds become blinded by judgment, fear and prejudice.
When nature is the cause of a disaster, we face our fragile humanity front on. Self-absorption and innate narcissism make room for seeing all life as precious and feeling other people’s pain as if it were our own. When we cannot find a ‘reason’ for the destruction – when human hands aren’t behind the indescriminate striking down - we automatically become more compassionate.
Nature teaches us many lessons – perhaps the most important might be this: we don’t (and shouldn’t) need a ‘reason’ to open ours hearts, love, give and show compassion to one other.
Natural disasters help us feel united – we become one country, one race, one people. Hopefully after Yasi, nature will have had enough of teaching us life lessons for a while.
A big hug to my friends Mikey and Max up north. I’m thinking of you both!! xxx
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