The frailty and resiliency of the human condition

I’m veering a bit from my normal topics on this blog post, but I feel that the recent disasters in Japan merit a bit of comment, or rather, reflection and respect for those who have lost so much.

With the recent disasters in Japan, I am struck both by how frail and resilient human life is. At first, natural disasters like this remind me of how fragile humans are. Our mere existence and lives seem solely dependent on the world around us acting as we expect – how the world “should” work. But when the world does not act accordingly, human lives are shattered. Family members and friends lost, homes destroyed, businesses completely put out of business in minutes. As I hear personal testimonies from those I know and love living there and as I watch news coverage on the horrific event, I am heart broken at the pictures and images I see. These images depict the frailness of human life. Pictures like this one:

In this picture, a Japanese woman is weeping in the midst of ruins. It causes a bit of a pause, of sadness, of empathy in me. I can not look at this image and remain unmoved. It remains impossible for me. I begin to imagine what it must be like to lose my own loved ones, my home, my belongings, my job, my business, my LIFE. And then I am stirred. Stirred to help. Stirred to love. Stirred to find a way to stand in the gap for these people. Can I go? Can I send money? Can I pray? As these thoughts race through my head, I am then struck by the juxtaposition of human frailty with human kindness. Sure, there are some jerks out there who just don’t care. But for the most part, we as humans grieve when our fellow humans suffer. And then more hopeful images begin to emerge. I start to see people helping each other:

I think this picture depicts so much of what humans ought to be and can be at their best. We ought to be ones who aid and comfort those who are weaker than us or more broken than us in the moment. Those who need help because they have no means to help themselves. In this picture, a strong, grown man helps an innocent young baby. That is human kindness. That is human goodness. I believe that is God in us.

Even more than this, I am in awe of the resiliency of the Japanese people. Amongst so much tragedy and terror, they have remained calm, perhaps hopeful, but always pressing forward. Several accounts keep depicting how striking it is that the Japanese have maintained order, respected others (little to no looting, etc.), and generally been resilient to the whole situation. At the same time, I hope they feel the freedom to break down, fall apart, and mourn their losses. But I hope we, as their fellow humans, can step in the gap and be the resources, prayers, and shoulders on which they cry. That’s the resiliency of the human condition. Although our lives are frail and weak, we can rely on others to pick us back up and say: “It’s ok. You are loved and cared for.” May we keep remembering that and pray for those in Japan.

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About Megan Johnson Shen

I am a social psychologist graduating with my Ph.D. from Baylor University this May and moving to NYC this summer to start a new job as a postdoctoral researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department. I love the brain, human behavior, and anything to do with understanding them better. I love research and a good dinner party. Fine wine and cheese - I'm there. Interesting experimental data? I'll probably show for that too. View all posts by Megan Johnson Shen

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