On Hearing about an Earthquake
- John Mark Reynolds Torrey Honors Institute
- 2011 14 Mar
God be with the men and women of Japan.
A major earthquake in a heavily populated place is bad news. I booted up “The Daily” and as usual it crashed, but not before hearing that there had been disaster someplace.
Hope told me there had been an earthquake in Japan, proving once again that she is better at communicating news than Rupert Murdoch. As a Southern Californian, my first response was, “Does this mean we will have an earthquake here?” The news stations here were alive with the question and the implications regarding the surfing.
And then someone in my twitter feed reminded me.
This story is not about me. That slap in the spiritual face was needed. The men and women of Japan should be my focus not how this story will impact my life.
Another reaction began to spread like a plague of narcissism across my feeds. Atheists questioned the goodness of God. Liberals asked if the Republicans were funding tsunami relief. Conservatives pointed out that you couldn’t count on government to help you in a disaster. Somewhere a bimetallist was ranting about the earthquake and the refusal of the United States government to coin silver at 16 to 1.
This story has nothing to do with my cause. Immediately using a story to make a point about my pet project is the sign of monomania and not a healthy soul.
People are suffering in Japan and it is not about California, American politics, or me. What should I do?
This story matters, but not everything that matters requires a response from me. The notion in a wired world that every issue that crosses my screen requires a personal response is dangerously messianic and surely exhausting.
Jesus made the point that anyone I see is my neighbor, but technology has made that an impossible test. Television shows me too much. Instead, I must give, but give from my limited time and talents to those whose burden I am called to actually bear.
Of course even this post has been about how I should not react to a horrific news story. In other words, my reflection has been internal and not external. This self-absorption is not the examined life of Socrates having more in common with the monologue habits of a bad movie super villain.
Now I will stop writing and reading about what this means and act for others.
I pray for the men and women of Japan and ask God what, if anything, else I should do. I pause briefly to bear what little bit of their burden I can spiritually through prayer. If called to give, I can go here. People are hurting and some are dead.
May their souls and the souls of all the faithfully departed rest in peace.
John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. John Mark Reynolds can be found blogging regularly at Scriptorium Daily.
Publication date: March 14, 2011