Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Pause After Hurricane Sandy

Being a child of Florida, I'm used to storms that shut down the city and bring out the true nature of its citizens. I've been through numerous tropical storms, depressions, and several hurricanes of various strength. I've lived without power, taken 'hobo baths' in the sink, and waited for the rescue trucks. And all of life stops during these times.

Now that New York City has experienced its first hurricane ever, the city that never sleeps has been forced to stop, sit down, and wait.  Parts of Manhattan have sunk underwater, the flooded subways have been severely damaged, and the roads are filled with fallen trees. I was one of the fortunate ones living on high ground and with a strong grid. I never lost power or even Internet throughout the worst of the howling winds.

I've sat in the brown leather la-z boy chair in my Brooklyn apartment looking out the past three days. My time is spent in thought, meditation, checking Facebook, watching the news, planning out projects to keep myself busy. My front stoop view looks down the hill toward the sloping docks and swamped regions. When I first moved in to this place 7 years ago I always remarked on how unusual it was that you could see the Statue of Liberty and many of things on a clear day. As it turns out, I was moving into -by chance and luck- the highest point in Brooklyn and probably the most secure. The Con Edison power grid is 2 blocks away, ensuring that we're at the front of the line when it comes to electricity. And it's also a block away from stores of all sorts. If South Park Slope were cut off from the rest of Brooklyn, the community would continue to exist on its own for quite a while. There's a healthy mixture of youth, families, professionals, artists, and students. The people -like the land itself- seem to stand on their own. But I know that this appearance isn't the reality.

What has arisen in the silence are friends and neighbors stopping by and there's a shift in relationships. No longer are we rushing to jobs and worried about getting up in the morning to go to jobs and exciting projects. Nothing is happening. And it's in these situations when people start opening up. When everything slows to a halt. we're forced to take stock. And even though we have the appearance of 'life going on with all our surface amenities' life has surely stopped all over New York City.

I've gone over to my friend's places and there's the buzz in the air. It's as if we're both realizing how close we came to danger and are now loosening up. We've got a little bit less to lose and more to gain in being honest, in talking about faith, God, sharing stories, looking for ways to help out others.

All the local shelters are overflowing with donations and volunteers. The citizens are slowing down and putting their priorities in place. I've offered my space to friends without power and no one has taken me up on the offer because they're usually left with many luxurious choices. We've looked for places to give and have been turned away. It's a heartening sign of a society that knows deep down inside that these times are tragic and -in some way- necessary.

I don't mean to imply that we must suffer loss and see people die in order to live. What disasters do to us is something much more profound: they interrupt our daily routine and force us to see how we ARE NOT living. The stoppage of routine gets us to see how we're distracted, petty, thieving, jealous, power-obsessed for a large portion of our waking hours. We were never really living to begin with and this pause is another opportunity to choose again. Now most people will see the vacuum and panic. We're quick to fill a pause with frantic action and noise. The void is something to be avoided at all cost.  And I have come to see more and more that the void is here all the time. Even though I pretend it's not there and I mask it with pretty little jobs and relationships, the void exists in each one of my relationships and exchanges.

As A Course In Miracles would say, now is my chance to choose again. I have been presented with a glimmer of truth in the dark of night. I can go toward it or close my eyes and immerse myself back into the frenzy. Choose again and I can let that pause expand. Maybe God is in the pause.

As a self-described Buddhist (whatever that means) I love the gap in time. The surprises comes from the void. I have been introduced to more amazing, spiritual, and intuitively sophisticated people in my last few years than ever before. These people are of all faiths and non-faiths. And in the last few days I have made time for meaningful conversation. I have listened to people open their hearts to me. Maybe God is in their heart.

Hurricane Sandy has been tragic, chaotic, depressing, humbling and necessary. Maybe this is what it takes to open up that pause in time and in our hearts.

1 comment:

Mildred said...

Very glad that you are okay. That's the most important thing. Keep on keeping on.