The torrential rains on Australia’s east coast have landed an unprecedented blow on hundreds of thousands of residents, and tens of thousands of homes were ruined after being inundated by floodwaters. In some places, more than 700 mm (26 inches) of rain fell in just 30 hours. The result, as one might expect, was devastating. The recovery is “likely to last months, if not years,” reported The Guardian, and another newspaper agreed stating, “It is difficult to fully comprehend the destructive impact of the flooding.”
Some of my students in Australia were also severely affected by the floods, and offered heart wrenching descriptions of the situation. Indeed, as the Chinese curse goes, we are living in interesting times.
The only way to explain such catastrophes is to look at the big picture. The final goal of humanity’s common journey is complete unity. It is the complete opposite of our current state of alienation and enmity, which are increasing the world over. The more powerful we feel, the meaner and less considerate we become. The only way to convince us to appreciate other people’s company is through upheavals that are beyond our control.
When we face nature’s fury, we are forced to surrender. Then, our hearts finally soften and open up to others. Only in dire times do we appreciate unity and mutual responsibility.
Yet, there is a difference between a blow and prolonged suffering. A blow softens our hearts and opens them to others. People in disaster areas feel closeness to their fellow-sufferers as the common plight brings them together.
Prolonged suffering, however, is when people go through extended states of hardship and hopelessness, possibly even over several generations. Under such circumstances, people are more likely to ask about the meaning of life itself than about alleviating an immediate hardship. These are the questions that eventually lead people to understand that selfishness and self-absorption are not sustainable ways to live. Even if people temporarily help each other, they have not risen above their egoism and are bound to fall back into petty struggles that will lead to more pain.
The blow that Australia’s east coast has suffered is obviously shocking and very painful. Until recently, their lives had been relatively serene and safe. Now, all of a sudden, they lose everything and have no choice but to start over, many of them from scratch. This must be traumatic for anyone.
Yet, is this the kind of blow that will make them ask about the meaning of life and lead them to seek a fundamental change within them? Have their hearts ripened for a transformation? Only time will tell.
Nevertheless, nature clearly leaves no stone unturned around the world, literally. It will toss and turn us, and pit us against each other by increasing the hatred and egoism among us. For our part, we must not wait for the agony to make people ask about life. It is our duty to tell them we will all have to connect, willingly or unwillingly, and become one united heart, since we are indeed one united soul, and only when we live accordingly can we be happy.
The Lismore Central Business District , Northern NSW, Thursday , March 3 , 2022. The clean up is underway in towns across northern NSW. (AAP Image/Jason O’Brien)