This article in the Sydney Morning Herald was written after Christchurch but before Japan! Every indication is that the phenomena of generous responses to sufferers of an unprecedented string of natural disasters continues.
Why is it so? Is it that the depths of sheer collective human empathy run so deep that we will never completely plumb the depths? If so, that’s an encouraging sign for the human race, especially the more well off side often castigated for its self-centredness.
Is it that on this planet ark we feel such a precarious hold on existence that a threat of annihilation to part is perceived as a danger to the whole, and that acts of generosity should be construed to be motivated by an unconscious urge for self-preservation? If so, and depending on one’s predisposition, this could be a heartening sign of the will and drive of the human species to survive. On the other hand, some might perceive this as a selfish motivation and a reduction of the human spirit to mere pragmatism.
So what’s the answer? Some will go into caves to contemplate – others will roll their sleeves up and get stuck into helping whatever way they can. Most will simply try to live their lives according to familiar routines, because this is the best way we know how to cope.
But John Donne was right: “No man [sic] is an island.” No-one remains unaffected. And we will continue to choose our responses.