Friday, March 11, 2011

A Buddhist Response to "A Buddhist Response to the Japan Tsunami"

At - yeah, at the Huffington Post, what did you expect? - one Lodro Rinzler has a burning question:

How can meditators help with the widespread destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan?

This to me is emblematic as to why non-Buddhists have certain stereotypes of American Buddhists - because this question, in light of what's happened, seems based on an idea of self-absorption.  It's also badly phrased - the widespread destruction is already doing a damn fine job at being widespread destruction already - it doesn't need any help!

There. I got that out of my system.  I don't have a problem with wanting loving kindness to permeate the people who've lost everything in Japan - far from it.  It's OK with me.  But this so ignorant of what Japan is that I want to make a few points, especially since Mr. Rinzler feels we're so "disempowered" that he thinks he can get "Sid" to give us all advice.   But first:

Obviously, the first thing I did was communicate with business associates and, at the first reasonable opportunity, my teacher.  Everyone I know's OK, and I have nothing but warm wishes for their loved ones and a standing offer to help any way I can.    I mean, this is not an abstract thing to me I'm watching on TV.  This is where I do business. Actually, the epicenter is relatively far from where I do business, but my teacher's temple is not so far from the Eastern coast of Honshu, so I was concerned. A lot. On the other hand, where I do do business centers around the Tokyo Bay area, and this was the first major test of the relatively recent buildings built there. On landfill.  So even with the epicenter relatively far away, it's an 8.9 - a logarithmic scale of damage.  I don't know exactly what the loss coefficient of the wave is, but 8.9 is nothing to sneeze about even 300 miles away from Tokyo Bay. Where "landfill" brings to mind thoughts of "liquefaction." 

Look, the American media will tell you how to help if you can.  The Japanese people have long expected "the next Great Kanto Earthquake."  They've got procedures and algorithms and processes in place.  They've got - far from population centers worst affected by the tsunami - strict building codes which those in LA or San Francisco or Seattle don't meet.  Forget about Portland. Japan's got universal health care, even for gaijin.

You want to help with earthquake karma? Make sure the buildings in America are as safe or safer than those in Japan.

And yes, despite my misgivings about nuclear power, I'm rooting for the folks in Fukushima to fix the problems with their reactor.  My Dad was in charge of the structural design of (at least) Fukushima 第一.


It is also undeniably true that the Japanese hadn't expected at all a quake of this magnitude; they're rare to be this strong. 

And it looks now like the problems in Fukushima have gotten worse.


Adam said...

Excellent points here, especially concerning Seattle. I've heard that parts of SoDo are built upon a landfill, around the Starbucks' HQ?

As an aside, there is currently an ad on your site saying "Seattle - get your ink 80% off today!" with a picture of some guy's back tattoo.

Are tattoos really something you want to get at a discounted price?

Petteri Sulonen said...


"How can meditators help?" The same way anyone else can help. How hard is that to understand, really?

Mumon said...


I wouldn't be surprised if there were too many tattoo artists or that there exists tattoo artists that use the time honored ruse of advertising a "discount" based on a nonexistent higher price.


Yeah; the phrasing struck me as odd, suggesting that "meditators" - who may or may not be Buddhists - or may be exactly synonymous with any Buddhist - are "special."

J said...

LA building codes have been upgraded since the Northridge quake--in theory at least. LA skyscrapers and overpassess will stand in like 7.0, maybe even 8.0 quake, probably--shake a lot, windows smashed out. Its the older residential that will fall apart.

But probably not up to japanese standards (and say grazi to...Brahma for that, or else it would have been thousands dead..ala chile or haiti etc).

Does an earthquake have buddha nature, mumonsan?