Monday, March 14, 2011

Haunted by images from Japan.

I couldn’t get away from a film this morning.

And have just had to watch it again, when I checked this reference.

It’s a town, a small ordinary kind of place as far as I can tell, and we watch the first water rush along the pavement.
And the water builds and builds with terrifying speed, cars are starting to get banged about. And then this thing appears. This boat. In the middle of a street.
And the water seems to be at about 4 feet, just in a minute or so, and the camera has spotted someone inside a shop opposite, zooms in on this fugure, helpless in the roaring chaos of his shop, and then it’s as if we turn away.
It’s becoming clear we’re standing on a steep slope and there is an avenue of escape, which is reassuring, because the water is just coming with such ferocity and speed.
All the cars have gone now. And it’s the buildings. it’s the buildings in the town being wrenched off their foundations and coming towards us.
This is too much for the person with the camera, who turns and starts running up the hill.
But the water has such appalling fascination, they cannot resist it, they turn back, and the buildings collapsing all around.
Like lot’s wife, I’m thinking.
And then suddenly through the chaos we zoom in on a group on a collapsing roof, quite close, seconds before the whole thing obliterates them for ever.
And the film ends.
The water is climbing up the second storeys now, it must be at least ten to twelve feet deep. It took six minutes. Six minutes. And in the next six minutes there’s no doubt the whole town will be destroyed.
The whole thing is on a tiny screen, plastered with irritating maps of Japan.
And it’s just as well. Any larger or clearer and it would be unbearable to watch it.

Yesterday i saw a man, standing dazed in the devastation. He kept saying he could not believe it. He could not believe it was real. When he was alone, he said, he kept pinching his cheek. Pinching his cheek to try to believe it was real.

A young woman who had escaped. She had come back, to find somebody perhaps, and now she... it was as if she, too, could not believe what she was seeing. She had lost her bearings because everything that gave the landscape coherence or sense had been as if wiped off the face of the earth.
And so she stood there, disbelieving.

I was speaking yesterday at an event organised by the Middle East Peace Festival. It was called “Towards a Civilisation of Love”.

There was a woman there, a fine woman, also speaking. Her name was Claudia Gonçalves, a shaman, and she was also speaking.
She said she had dreamed the night before of the wave, the giant wave that was coming and she was trying to save her daughter.
“It is coming here”, she said. “The waves are coming here”.

And I thought of a speech I wrote in 1985. In LOSING VENICE:

“You remember the story our teacher told.
Of the wise man who built his house upon
the rock and the foolish one who built
his on the sand? We built ours on the mud.
We compromised.
And now we are sinking.
Year by year the tide water rises.
Already it has flooded our cellars;
Soon it will beat against our doors.
Then the waves will come and wash us
from the face of the earth.
The clouds gather. The storm is rising.
And it will come. Nothing can stop it.
We know. We laugh when we can;
We live, as we must.
Fear eats away our hearts. Will it spare us,
We wonder, will it spare or children?
Yet what can we do? Tear down our city?
Label the stones and move them, stone by stone,
Rebuild them on the higher ground?
All our energy is taken up with living.
Besides, is there any mountain high enough
to hide us,
Is there depth enough in any cave?
I doubt it. Crying is easy, Quevedo,
Laughter requires a little more strength.”
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