Once you learn to read you will be forever free - Frederick Douglass

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Life is the Ultimate Power

Nuclear Power: The Fifth Horseman, Dennis Hayes  - click for more info
Less than a year after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in July 1946, NBC Radio broadcast a series of plays that dramatically questioned nuclear power. There are eight episodes of "The Fifth Horseman," narrated by actor Henry Fonda. You can listen to these old radio plays, and purchase them for download, by clicking here"Make your ships unsinkable," the Fonda character says. "But that will not save your people and your cities." He had witnessed Hiroshima. "The room we were in suddenly brightened by the greatest light ever seen on this earth...The shattered glass flew through the room with the velocity of bullets. Then a terrific wind roared through the room."

Actor Henry Fonda, The Fifth Horseman
The Obsessive Reader is aware that people are waiting to see how bad the nuclear crisis in Japan will become. Is there a possibility that fallout from the radiation in northern Japan will  shower Japan and be carried on wind currents and through water systems around the earth? The Obsessive Reader is aware that many people are panicking now. Bemoaning our fate. Having heart palpitations. Crowing that the chickens have come home to roost. Selling off stocks. Demanding life changes. All various reactions I've noticed in response to the nuclear crisis in Japan, following the earthquake and tsunami disasters.

A friend and poet, Margaret Randall, wrote the best response I have seen.

I grieve and rage for the Japanese people first of all, who carry Hiroshima and Nagasaki in their DNA memory and now face tens of thousands of lost lives and devastated land because of a terrible earthquake, a terrifying tsunami, and the wrongheadedness of those who believe we can "harness" nuclear power. We must ask what they need and try to give it to them.

And I grieve and rage for us all, living on a planet whose axis has shifted because of these tectonic plates unbuckling and realigning themselves after this disaster.

Here's to life, everywhere!

The Obsessive Reader remembers in the 1980s, after the 1978 Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, a beautiful, clear voice emerged out of the panic and confusion.  It made so much sense that the orator was a pediatrician, a physician who cared for children, a small woman from Australia with her own children, who was outraged at our moral numbness. She was a scientist, a trained physician. What seemed to matter most as I listened to her voice on Pacifica Radio, and read some of her early books, was that Dr. Helen Caldicott was sane. She was angry, outspoken, shrill and repetitive.  But she had not lost her senses, she had found them. And nobody was going to stop her from speaking out about the dangers of nuclear power, how crazy a path humanity had carved for itself.  What struck me most of all, though, was Dr. Caldicott's love for people and the earth we live on.  Her words and spirit communicated such a passion for life.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, b. 1938
The Obsessive Reader joins Helen Caldicott in affirming that life is the ultimate power on Earth. Life, the stubborn, eternal substance that forces weeds through cracks in urban concrete, that allows cockroaches to outlast human catastrophes, that holds the galaxy in balance and spins the planets, that breathes us as we inhale and exhale. In infinite forms, Life is the source of all.

During this time, humanity is panicked, confused, and grieving for the losses of our brothers and sisters in Japan, it is easy to forget about the power of life. That power exists, even in the midst of death. It might help give perspective, even hope, to remember the words of Dr. Helen Caldicott from a 1981 Phi Beta Kappa address to the Harvard chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.  In her speech, "This Beautiful Planet," she called the nuclear age, "the greatest challenge the human race has ever had since we stood on our hind legs and developed the opposing thumb to use weapons."

Dr. Caldicott, in 1981
Unless we mature and stop behaving like children, we will not survive. 
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, "God Bless America," but every person on earth is the son or daughter of God. We are together on a small, fragile planet. We will either live together or we will die together.
What is our responsibility toward evolution? To continue this beautiful life process. If you take this on, life becomes very precious. Even the things you dislike most about your life become precious. Go outside and look at a rose and smell it, or look at a baby to know what I mean. 
We are curators of all life on this planet. We hold it in our hands. It is a beautiful planet, maybe the only life in the whole universe, and I refuse to believe we are silly enough to destroy it.

For obsessive readers to learn more about Helen Caldicott's books and how to purchase them, click here.  I join Margaret Randall in proclaiming, Here's to LIFE everywhere! Gracias a la Vida.

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