Even the Heavens Wept —

Shinto, the religion that belongs to Japan indigenously, before the arrival of Buddhism, is an animist religion. It believes that the physical world and the spiritual world are inseparable, that natural phenomena are also living entities like human beings, and that humans dwell in the world of nature merely as part of it, never as lords and masters.

Today Japan bore witness to that belief in an awesome and terrifying way. A devastating earthquake — jishin — and a scouring wave — tsunami– testified to human insignificance in the face of nature’s might.

Modern technology enabled the rest of the world to look on in horrified fascination as the towers swayed and shook, the earth rumbled and cracked, and the waters roared over the land sweeping everything, animate and inanimate, before them in a jumble of destruction.

I have many friends in Japan, and I thank the heavens that all of them are safe, although some endured many hardships. But hundreds, perhaps thousands, did not survive. One friend began, “It is devastating,” then closed her email repeating, “It is devastating.” Another emailed quite simply: “This is Japan.”

In tribute and in recognition, this youtube video of Nikko, a Japanese temple garden in the rain. It may be fanciful here in the West to say that nature is weeping in tribute to some of her creatures. But in Japan, in Shinto, it is simply — what it is.

Each of the rain drops has a tale to tell
about the sorrows of people
about the hardships living things go through
about the arrival of sparrows.

Yamamura Bocho (20th century)

(On View from the Woods, this icon of HOME in Japan, from my photo memories)

This entry was posted in Personal Essay, Poetry, Zen and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Even the Heavens Wept —

  1. Stef says:

    To think that we (humans) are masters over anything is both foolish and arrogant. My heart goes out to those in Japan affected by the devastation of both earth and water, and to those people indirectly affected as well. Which is all of us.


  2. Kattsby says:

    I, like most other people, have watched this unfold … with the same disbelief and feeling of unreality as I watched the tsunami rolling in with all the debris, as I had on Christmas Day 2004.

    Stef said it so well here above … about thinking that we are masters of anything ….


  3. Therese Bertsch says:

    I weep for the people of Japan and pray that the Lord of love companions them in their heartache. This post was quite beautiful and a help in trying to comprehend how to live out in normal time with the full knowledge of the sorrows facing the people of Japan.


  4. pauline says:

    Humans are such an amalgam of beliefs and failings and accomplishments – perhaps our refusal to see or acknowledge that we are all connected is fear that if we do, there won’t be enough (of whatever is most important to us) to go around. Hoarding, I think, whether of emotion or object, makes us mean and jealous and one-eyed. There will be people who reach out to help the Japanese and others who will say that “God” is punishing them, and still others who will shrug and say, “Nature will take its course.” As individuals we always get to choose what path we take next, what thoughts we will entertain, what credo we will adopt. Those of us who believe we are interconnected will act in accordance, reaching out to help those who suffer, knowing from experience or expectation that our own turn will come.


  5. pauline says:

    And (getting off my soapbox) the video and accompanying poem were beautiful, Judith, little interludes to lift the soul. After reading your description of Shinto, I read “people” in that poem to mean “all life” and not just humans. Even the sparrows might rejoice at their own return πŸ™‚


    • Touch2Touch says:

      That would certainly be a Shinto interpretation, at least in my understanding of it.

      As you write, “Those of us who believe we are interconnected will act in accordance, reaching out to help those who suffer, knowing from experience or expectation that our own turn will come.” That is, like a yin-and-yang figure, life consists of light and shadow (see post in View from the Woods), happiness and sorrow, feast and famine, all the opposites. None of us is above it all, none of us is immune. We think so at our peril.

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  6. Jen Payne says:

    Thank you for this…


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