SADNESS AND AWE

Today I am very sad. Part of the reason is expressed in Bob Herbert’s final article in today’s New York Times which you can read here. As an American who is old enough to remember different times –times when the American dream (owning a home, getting an education and then a decent job, political civility) was a reality, his depiction of today’s reality is tragic. Then, when he announced that this will be his last article for the Times, it seemed to mark the end of an era. I am tempted to say “an era of hope”, but I am fundamentally too much of an optimistic for that. I always looked forward to Herbert’s writings, which invariably clarified and eloquently defined the country’s conditions. Goodbye to all that. And Frank Rich has moved on as well.

Also in today’s NYT obit section, is the announcement of the death of Ricky Leacock, pioneer of cinéma vérité, a great, brave documentary filmmaker who was a friend.

The “awe” part of my feelings today are a continuation of what I wrote about in a recent blog…the manner in which the people of Japan appear to face the devastation and loss in their country because of the earthquake, Tsunami and increasing threat of nuclear contamination. The front page story in the NYT talks about the Japanese people’s ” order and civility” in the face of all this. “The stoicism and bravery in the face of tragedy that seems almost woven into the national character.” The article goes on to describe many small examples of social order and civility.

I remember in the mid 1970s when my then husband, Tom Hayden, our 3-year-old son and I, visiting a solar “city” in the south of Japan, were surrounded by what seemed like 1000s of people– fans, shouting, pushing. My family started to get scared of being crushed and trampled. But when the police (who carry no guns) simply raised their hands, the people stepped back and made room for us. I had never experienced such social obedience without anyone resorting to harsh words or violence.

I am in awe of them. I wish we could learn their lessons.

Sad as I have been about the death of Elizabeth Taylor, when I just now heard a tape of Michael Jackson singing his “Billy Jean”, I thought, ‘at least now they are back together–Michael and his friend, Elizabeth.’

…And life goes on. I pray that we, here in this country, can learn the lessons that are there if we make the choice to save ourselves. And let it start with the elimination of greed and an effort toward kindness.

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20 Comments
  1. a wonderful report on npr this week on japan’s response… will post here asap.

  2. Jane, a great post here. I would say I’ve been watching the world through the eyes of social media starting with Haiti, then Chile, Tunisia and the consequent middle east uprisings for peace, and now the Japan earthquake and tsunamai. What touches me most is the human spirit. The ability to take the blow as best possible, and then both in the physical and virtual world, work hard for the best of humanity. The heroics and the human gift of giving are inspiring.

    I agree I hope us in this country can learn from the brave people across the globe, and I guess I do believe in the human spirit regardless of where that spirit resides. What I love personally about the human spirit is that we do what we must even when it is “against all odds”. I wrote a post on it. I truly believe innately in the human spirit, this is part of us. http://itsjustmytake.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/against-all-odds/

    Again, thank you for a great post.

  3. Too many sad things going on in the world at the same time.
    This morning while I was doing the routine on one of your new Workouts and you said ” remember this one from the old days? ( or something similar) as “we” began to do “the pony” , and I found myself answering you back with a giggle, I thought that was a good thing, a heart warming thing….THEN I read the NY Times….
    Oh boy! There were times when you could take on the world, and did, and made a difference.
    Today its like there are many little ” fires” popping all over and one doesn’t even know which way to turn.
    I don’t know about you but , Meditation helps me. And I suspect you probably meditate yourself.
    At a time when chaos really seems to be closing in, maybe you might consider suggesting meditation as a way to find calm in a time of chaos (these times).
    I’m not selling anything here, I hope you realize. But we’ve just reached the point where maybe open mindness and inner spaciousness minght help a lot of folks ,even if they just sit for a few minutes and concentrate on the breath and think of “nothing”.
    What do you think?

    • Silvia, interesting you mention meditation. I will lead one on one of my next DVD s. It is important to me.

      • I’m so glad to hear that you meditate! Can’t wait for your new DVD’s…YOU can make such a difference!

  4. You said it so well — We will miss Bob Herbert and Frank Rich at the Times — Looking forward to Bob Herbert’s book – Hope to see him on many shows promoting his book and ideas. It does seem strange that Frank Rich and Bob Herbert are leaving the Times about the same time.- Perhaps we will see more of them on MSNBC and on Keith Olbermann’s new show on Current TV – We need all the literate voices we can get!

    My very best to you,

    Joan Hager

  5. hello Jane,

    Have been a online with Kathy Ireland, whom Elizabeth Taylor was a big supporter,she was at the funeral is a ceremony. Kathy Ireland was heart broken over the loss. It was very interesting to see Colin Farrell, but he must have been impressive in his simple reading of a few poems.
    The passing of Ricky Leacock, pioneer of cinéma vérité-I was reading that loss and reading about that very subject on that sameday.
    We do have alot of sameness of interest ,been reading Bob Herbert’s final article. John John Cusack, Actor and I have exchange tweets on Bob Herbert will being to to his books to come, yes another loss.
    I have been reading some Japanese Haiku Poems-

    the ground echoes
    yet another rice rack
    collapsing in rain

    with love and care,

  6. Very well written.
    Even though I am a audacious optimist, I too feel a little sad for the world in general, for Japan, for the loss of Elizabeth Taylor, and just simply for the way everything seems to be going in the world.
    Even though you are older than me, I grew up listening to you, and others like you; Steinem, Streisand, Maclaine, and so many others, and you all help me to enter my next decades leading the way.
    I really hope we can make the world a better place for our children, and a lot of people are trying, but sometimes it’s not hard to get a little weary in the process. It is the end of an era for a lot of things, but as you say, we are all in parenthesis (no matter how old we are, because noone is guaranteed another day), so we have to keep on pushing, and trying, and keep moving forward- just like you guys have taught us to do. Thanks!

    p.s. I saw 33 Variations and loved it!

  7. Hi Jane … So many things seem to be changing so rapidly on our planet. Don’t you think it is time for the original flower children and activists from the 60’s to stand together… In the wisdom of our elder years…and lead? Are you speaking at Omega this summer? I can’t wait to read your new book!

    • Terra, alas I will not be speaking at Omega this summer. I have too much work right now. My book comes our sept 20 th and a new DVD on Sept 2 nd and all the pr work around both of those. I miss Omega. A great place.

  8. I’m not sure why I am saying this, but I had to give it out: You are such an inspiration in every way. Getting to know your thoughts and writing really changed my life. I just wanted to say. I always find a thought in your writing that gives me something to think about. You’ve mentioned many times the need to be perfect and I feel that in a way too and that was a quite toxic to my life. Sometimes I got pyschosomatic diseases because of the pressure. But it’s so hard to talk about and it’s great to have someone who understands what I mean.

    And I am also heartbroken by Elizabeth Taylor’s passing. It was such a sad day when she passed. I was watching Raintree Country and there was the scene where she was lying on the grave of her parents and something felt strange. A couple of hours later, I read the horrible news… This is probably pure coincidence but I cannot get rid of the bothering thought. Still, she lives on in Heaven, in our hearts and the movies. True legends (and that’s what she IS and always will be) never die.

  9. The departure of Bob Herbert column is particularly distressing as his has been a voice has echoed the realities of many people in our country.
    I remember not so long ago, when people joined together to fight for equality, rights, and the chance to share what our America represented.
    It seems that we have completely lost our sense of “us” and are utterly consumed with “me”.

  10. What a thoughtful blog post! I have been in total admiration of how the Japanese people have faced their recent ongoing and horrifying adversity. Maybe we need a national civility movement. You could lead it Jane.

    Best,
    Pam

  11. what is going on at the times?
    so many favorite features are gone… are they trying to appeal to brow beating right wingers? or are they dumbing down to capture more of the u.s.a today readers?
    very hard times for everyone… i guess especially for printed news outlets
    also… i loved geraldine farraro!

  12. I’m all in favor of eliminating greed, but I have no idea how, given human nature, such elimination is supposed to work in practice.

  13. Hello again Jane,
    I just had a twitter Deja Vu experience thinking on Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral.I had @DameElizabeth for some time now on Twitter and a times would send out a tweet or two concerning thing. Some time ago I was reading Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo” and was writing some of my own on the like subject. At that time I read Elizabet Taylor was in the hospital having problems and she tweeted something, I sent her the link to the poem and sent her some of my ideas on the subject in a tweet. I never hear anything on it, and went on my way. After reading about Colin Farrell reading that poem by request at Elizabeth Funeral,I was thinking that poem and looked it up and recalled sending that and commenting on it. I’m sure she had read the poem before ,now thinking about it and I even found a YouTube reading by Richard Burton http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhQwFf6Qb9U that is wonderful to see. So now I can wonder if,perhaps that tweet may have been read or she re-read or not, and found it of interest. A nice little warm idea, for me to keep and mind and I will never know.
    with love and care again ,

  14. We live in an era so difficult … I hope that our children and grandchildren will have a better life !
    It is also sad the loss of Liz Taylor … it must be in a better world now.
    It is true that meditation is excellent to help us overcome all these current events.
    I make myself to relax and also yoga.Try here you’ll find that you will do the greatest good.
    Take care of yourself.

  15. Well said, Jane. We need thoughtful voices in all forms of media. At times I despair that we will amuse ourselves to death in North America. I couldn’t agree more with you that we start by eliminating greed and making efforts toward kindness.

    Have you read Karen Armstrong’s book “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life”? I highly recommend it. The book came out of a prize she won from a non-profit organization ‘TED’, best known for conferences on “ideas worth spreading”. The award goes to people whom they think have made a difference but who, with their help, could make a greater impact. In addition to $100,000, the winner is granted a wish for a better world. Bill Clinton was another recipient.

    As a religious writer and historian, she felt that because the world is so polarized and yet bound together more closely than ever through electronic media, we urgently need voices from all religious and philosophical traditions to call for compassion.

    In her book, she offers twelve steps to help individuals and/or groups put compassion into action, realizing that it will take an immense effort of the mind and heart to do this. Addressing this challenge, she suggests, may be the test of our time. But, she adds, Gandhi, memorably said that ‘we must ourselves become the change that we wish to see in the world’.

    On a personal note, Jane, I want to thank you for the courageous and honest voice that you’ve been for decades and continue to be on so many levels. In particular, I appreciate how you help us hear and understand the perspectives and stories of others.

  16. “I wish we could learn their lessons.”

    Are those the lessons from the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Japenese trying to take over the world–causing untold horrors?

  17. As the Japanese reactor disasters unfold, we remember Jane’s essential work on THE CHINA SYNDROME.
    Fortunately there are ways to clean up radioactivity.
    Canadian inventor John Hutchison has a benign technology to clean the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and more.
    Please join Louisiana State Senator A.G. Crowe in demanding that proven, non-toxic solutions are immediately implemented to restore the Gulf of Mexico.
    http://www.agcrowe.com/pg-51-47-Clean-The-Gulf-Petition.aspx
    To learn more and support this initiative, please visit the FB page/group
    “Clean the Gulf (Hutchison Effect)”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WNO0Hln8dtk#at=82
    Thank you!

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