Death and Rebirth: The Dark and the Light of Japan

The crisis in Japan is of epic proportions. Like so many others, I sat transfixed by images of burning buildings, floating cars, and exploding reactors playing across the TV screen, my heart ripped open at the level of destruction and tragedy. How do people even begin to clean up something of such magnitude, let alone rebuild and heal from the trauma?

This is exactly the kind of disaster I write about in Waking the Global Heart – disasters that seem to be coming more frequently, like painful contractions in the birth process of humanity. (e.g. Katrina, Haiti earthquake, Gulf Oil Spill, floods in Pakistan, etc.) As terrible and awful as they are, we must also remember they contain an awakening to a new order. As ordeals of initiation, their extreme loss reveals gifts that were previously obscured: the gifts of community helping each other, the appreciation for simple things like food, warmth, and water, the experience of hearing quiet and seeing the stars, as this beautiful letter from a woman in Sendai expresses.

From Anne Thomas in Sendai, Japan where she has lived for the past decade teaching English.

Hello My Lovely Family and Friends,

First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you.

Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend’s home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.

During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets.

Utterly amazingly, where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, “Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.”

Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often.

We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do not. No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.

There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun. People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs. All happening at the same time.

Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled. The mountains of Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently.

And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others. Last night my friend’s husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.

Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an Enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that is much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.

Thank you again for your care and Love of me,

With Love in return, to you all,


After the shock and pain, grief and loss, and the long hard clean up, there is something remarkable that I expect will come out of this. More than any other subculture on the planet, the Japanese are known for their quality, efficiency, elegance, and beauty in design. With whole towns and cities devastated, there is now opportunity to design and build from scratch, cities that are ecologically modern, more beautiful than before, that really serve their communities. Who better than the Japanese to take on that task? I predict that their new cities will be models for the world.

Commentator Fareed Zakaria said that the Japanese had prepared better than most for this kind of disaster and that indeed the deaths were fewer because of it. But they were economically unprepared as their country had fallen deeply into debt. Where will they get the money to rebuild? Yet rebuild they will, simply because they must. By necessity they will need to innovate socially and economically as well. And this too, will set a tone for the future. A means of working together out of necessity, more from the heart than from financial interest.

Also inspiring, in a devastated country of 128,000 people, there has not been one reported case of looting. The Japanese are being patient while standing in line for food, helping each other out as this report shows.

Destruction and creation are an inevitable pair. In the midst of the devastation, something new is being born. Evolutionary thinker, Barbara Marx Hubbard, noted on a call recently click here to access the recording. that if a woman went into childbirth without any idea of what was happening to her, she would surely think she was dying. Another woman, Ariel Spillsbury, said she felt that the tsunami was the waters breaking of humanity’s birth. There is much labor still to go, but we are birthing a new world.

Anodea Judith

March 16, 2011