Monday, May 19, 2008


Taxis often honk their horns as they drive through my neighborhood. A honk has various meanings. "Get out of my way!" "Do you need a ride?" "Be careful, I'm coming." I have long since become immune to the noise, and rarely even notice it in my apartment anymore.

2:28 pm today. The discordant note of all the taxis horns mixing together throughout the neighborhood was impossible to ignore. The sound was harsh, uncomfortable, and emitted a mood akin to loud wailing. This was our indicator to stop what we were doing, to stand and to remember what took place just one week ago.

I was in the middle of my language lesson, racking my brain trying to remember the characters I hadn't studied nearly enough. The book was put aside. My language tutors and I stood up and gazed out my window. They bowed their heads; grief etched on their faces. Echoing in the mournful wail of taxi horns I could almost hear the question of the week, why?

Three minutes passed. Lessons resumed. Taxis drove off. Life continued.

Life with a more somber color. Television entertainment canceled. Student entertainment activities canceled. Flags half mast. A cloud of grief, briefly punctuated by moments of joy as one more impossible survivor is removed from the rubble. Today, a 61 year old woman. Buried for a week. A flash of hope in a sea of despair.

But life continues. One student comments, this makes me feel weak and small. Another comments on how Chinese people depend on themselves, but now they are faced with the reality that they are not in control. I hear the faint whisper, now, yes, even now, I'm tilling the soil.

If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapor, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil - historically considered. But the historic version is, of course, not the only one. All things and all deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their "causes" and "effects." No man can estimate what is really happening sub specie aeternitatis. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labors with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always the soil for unexpected good to sprout in. ~J.R.R. Tolkien

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