disasters


Last week, thanks to a link provided by asakiyume, I read an absolutely riveting article from the London Review of Books, 6 February 2014: “Ghosts of the Tsunami” by Richard Lloyd Parry. In it, Parry discusses the paranormal experiences had by people after the 2011 tsunami in Japan. He speaks a lot about the difference between “contained” ancestral spirits and the wild or “hungry ghosts” unleashed by natural disaster and also by having their ancestral shrine anchors destroyed by natural disaster. He writes about spirit-ridden people and a spirit-ridden society, survivors guilt, paranormal experiences, and exorcisms. It’s a long article but absolutely worth the read. Very, very moving.

It also reminded me of something I’d read somewhere a long time ago about the hungry ghosts created after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I couldn’t find the specific reference, but I did find a passage in Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton. He speaks of how many of the survivors of the A-bomb blasts were haunted—whether psychologically or spiritually—by hungry ghosts, a literalization of survivors’ guilt. He writes:

“Japanese Buddhist tradition has stressed ‘quick separation of souls from physical bodies’ so that they ‘became ancestral souls, gradually became calm, settled in dwellings in high mountains, and came down to their children’s homes and rice fields on certain occasions.’ These calm and appropriately placed ancestral souls are the antithesis of the homeless dead—of the ‘wild souls’ and ‘hungry ghosts’ whose way of dying, or neglect by survivors, caused them to be denied proper separation from, and continuity with, these same survivors. Significantly, at the annual Bon Festival, the time when visits from ancestral souls are expected, special offerings of food are also put out for anonymous ‘hungry ghosts’ who, it is thought, might otherwise have no one to provide for them—another expression of survivors’ sense of responsibility for their ‘homelessness…’ For the survivor must reject the dead (particularly the newly dead) until he can place them safely within a mode of immortality: in Japanese tradition, permit them to become ancestor souls (or gods); in Christian tradition, immortal souls.”

Similar things were reported in the aftermath of the horrific tsunami which hit Thailand and other spots in the Indian Ocean in 2004. The fear of hungry ghosts kept many Asian tourists away from these spots. Maybe it still is.

EVPs
(On hearing tapes of spontaneously-generated “spirit
voices,” so-called EVPs: Electronic Voice Phenomenon)

The mumbling dead
speak non-sequiturs
as if they have forgotten
language, that thing
which made them most human.

“I came up with Betty;”
“I went to see the war”—
one-phrase grooves
clicking on and off
with ancient preoccupations.

Sometimes what they say
freezes in my heart
and turns my lungs cold.
“The soul stays down here,”
says the voice from the crypt,
and I cannot catch my breath.

Are the souls of the dead
crowding round us even now,
like ekimmu out of Babylon,
jealous of the air we breathe,
hungry for the touch of flesh
they cannot possess?

Then give me oblivion.

If not the golden light,
if not even the fires below,
then I want nothing, nothing.
Anything but wandering feet
which cannot feel the road.

—PJ Thompson

Random quote of the day:

 

“Natural disasters are a good career move for a man in my line of work.”

—Chris Rose, newspaper columnist, 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina

(Mr. Rose speaks from deep heartbreak and survivor shock here. This book is a harrowing look at the first four months after Katrina. Composed of the columns he wrote for the Times-Picayune after he returned to the city days after the disaster struck, it’s moving, despairing, cynical, with sparks of humor. It details the flailing attempts of the city to cope and struggle back on its feet, and the frightful impact on the poor people often forgotten in the aftermath of the storm.  It’s an amazing piece of journalism, an amazing testament.)

 

 

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

If you would actually like to check off ticky boxes for this poll, you can go here.

If the giant killer asteroid was projected to hit your home town in the next 24 hours, what would you do?

Hit the highway with the 5,837,934 people trying to escape the area.
Shelter in place. They could be wrong!
Shelter in place. I wouldn’t want to be part of the dystopian society left after it hit.
Finally tell my parents I’m gay/an atheist/polyamorous/a 9th level wizard/other.
Finally take up gender experimentation/prayer/polyamory/D&D/other.
Hold the mother of all block parties.
Return ET’s phone call.
Loot and pillage.
Tell everyone how much I love them and curl up into a whimpering ball.
Give up the last seat on the last ‘chopper so the pregnant lady can escape.
Hold onto the skids of the last ‘chopper out of town.
Fall off the skids of the last ‘chopper out of town somewhere really dramatic.
Ticky doesn’t care for any of these options.
Other.