Delving into the Intangibles


“Disaster strikes when you least expect it,” quipped physicist and author Torahiko Terada (1878-1935), a native of these natural disaster-prone Japanese islands. He thus sent a warning to those people who live in ease and comfort entirely forgetful of what has happened in the not-so-distant past.

Early humans, in their pre-civilized state, were extremely docile and submissive to Nature. They dared not make any outrageous attempts to defy it––which was good.  With the advance of civilization, however, humans gradually developed the ambition to conquer Nature, constructing various artificial structures and buildings in defiance of gravity and the power of wind and water. When, in their hubris, humans think they have tamed Nature, it suddenly breaks out of its cage and goes on the rampage like a herd of wild beasts, toppling high towers and ripping open riverbanks, killing many people and destroying everything in its path. “It’s probably safe to say that such disasters have their origin in humanity’s rebellious contrivance against Nature,” concluded Terada.

Watching the TV program “One Year Ago Today,” I am surprised that there seems to be no good news anywhere in the world. Disasters strike exactly when people least expect them and in unlikely places. Here we have the deadly Intangible power that is gigantic and all conquering.

On the other hand, tangible disasters, i.e. obviously man-made ones, are also breaking out endlessly: wars, atrocities, massacres, terrorist attacks, explosions, and various kinds of accidents too numerous to be counted, large and small. It might be fruitless to ask, “Who made such a world?” We cannot pass the buck to somebody else. One thing is definite: human desires are responsible. And, these days, anyone can be a victim of such man-made evils.

It amuses me a little to think that man-made disasters and homemade bombs are somewhat akin to each other. It seems it has become a mere “piece of cake” for some humans to pull the trigger of catastrophe.

Ancient peoples, of course, suffered from natural disasters; but the man-made ones must have been fewer in number than they are today.

In expectation of the natural disaster that can strike at any time, I do not forget to keep a store of water, food, household medicines, et cetera, and check where to take refuge and whom to contact. But I am always worrying whether things will work out well in the clutch.

If a big disaster strikes, everything will be destroyed, blown up or washed away; and so I brace for the worst. It would be a pity if, unknowingly, this sort of sad notion were to become part of my preparedness.

I have practiced hard, and I think I would be able to jump out of the window with my sneakers on. When preparing dinner, I am careful to avoid foodstuffs containing a high level of cesium. When I am out in the street, I do not walk under the awnings of construction sites.

And I have made up my mind not to go out in big crowds unless absolutely necessary.

Oh, what a nasty world!  Might one live just as well, in dull ease and comfort, as one does trying not to be stupid and insensitive? Everyday I am asking myself this question, without finding a satisfactory answer.