Here’s something I’ve been asked a lot recently by various people:
Q: “What do you think all of these recent earthquakes mean?”
A: “I think it means that the earth’s tectonic plates are shifting.”
I’m not being deliberately obtuse with my answer. I understand the question and its intention. At the same time, my answer isn’t arch or sarcastic or deliberately missing the point. It’s what I think.
Why? Because sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
I get it. As human beings, we have a propensity to look for meaning in everything. We seek out patterns and then attempt to make sense of those patterns by ascribing some higher explanation for them. I am not exempt from this practice. Ask me why I lost my job and I’ll give you a long drawn out and esoteric answer that takes a somewhat random event (my job loss) and turns it into an event that had significant meaning and positive impact in my life. It’s how I cope – by finding the silver lining in the cloud and using such events as an impetus to impel me forward rather than remaining spinning my wheels as I longingly gaze to the past.
So do I think there is meaning in all of the earthquakes happening around the world aside from tectonic shifting? Yes and no. I believe that if an individual sees what is happening and has a need to recognize and explain a pattern surrounding it, then for that person those earthquakes have meaning. Not only that, but I think that if any individual has a need to assign that type of meaning to the recent slew of earthquakes occurring around the world, then it isn’t my place to judge either the need to find that explanation or the explanation itself. After all, I’ve found myself in many situations where I have needed to do the exact same thing.
For me, however, I’m not feeling any particular need in this case for an explanation beyond the one at which I have already arrived. The earth’s tectonic plates are shifting. Does that mean that tomorrow (or even five minutes from now) I won’t change my mind and decide that I need to come up with a more meaningful explanation? Nope. I can’t know what I will need in any moment other than this very one. In the next moment – or a moment that occurs ten minutes or ten days down the line – I will leave those alone for now and allow myself to make the decisions about what I need right then when they arrive.
But for me, right now, the earth’s shifting is a literal translation. The earth is shifting because it needs to. When it doesn’t need to shift quite so much, then it will stop.
After all, the earth is ancient. It was here long before we humans came to it, and I have a hunch it will be here long after we are obliterated. During that time, there have been plenty of periods of active geological activity; however, we weren’t here to record it, comment on it and worry about it. This period of geological activity seems more significant to us because it is happening right here, right now and we’re watching it in a world where information is available at the push of a button and everyone is interconnected to everyone else on the world wide web.
Does that mean that the earthquakes have no meaning? Of course not. Ask anyone who has been personally affected by one of these earthquakes, and they can tell you what the meaning is for them. They can give you messages that run the gamut of human emotion – grief, loss, fear, hope, compassion and human kindness. For them, at least one of the earthquakes was meaningful – the one that impacted their lives.
So what do I think it means – all of these earthquakes that have been happening? I think the earth’s tectonic plates are shifting. And I think that many people’s lives are shifting as a result of all of this tectonic activity. What the shifts in those lives are and who they choose to become as a result is entirely up to the individual.
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