Forces of Nature and the Meaning of Life

Imagine the scenario.

The persistent sound of the alarm clock jolts you awake from blissful sleep. You hit the snooze button a couple of times before you eventually decide it’s really time to wake up. You finally get up, have a luxurious stretch, get out of bed, go to the john, go to the kitchen and make yourself a cup of coffee. Then you check the papers, have breakfast, chit-chat with family and plan the day. The kids need to be brought to school so you hit the shower, get dressed and shepherd the family out the door. Together, you brave the rush hour traffic to get everyone to school and work on time.

Throughout the day, it’s a series of meetings, deadlines, phone calls, presentations, arguments and idle moments in the office pantry.

Meanwhile, your mind is on the pleasurable prospect of the fact that it’s finally Friday. You look forward to a night out in town to chill, relax and celebrate the start of the weekend. You imagine the awesomeness that is waking up the following morning, safe and cozy in your own home without the persistent sound of an alarm clock to wake you up. It’s Saturday anyway. You mentally make a note of the chores you need to do that weekend. People you have to see. TV shows to catch up on. Quality time with the spouse. Playtime and a mall date with the kids. Perhaps a golf game or two.

And then with a deep sigh, you force yourself back to the reality that Friday workday isn’t over yet. So you go back to work, but reassure yourself that it’s just a few hours away to freedom.

Then suddenly, you feel dizzy and unsteady on your feet. Around you, others are equally as disoriented and perplexed. The furniture in your office starts swaying, closets and cupboards squeak, wind chimes clang noisily, objects fall from tables, and then you realize — there’s an earthquake.

You panic for a split second. Others around you come to the same realization. Some make a dash for the stairs. Others frantically make their way to the elevators in an attempt to flee the towering heights. Some others scramble to get under tables and door frames.

When it’s over, another one hits. And then another. The tremors just don’t stop. When it finally does, water from the sea rapidly rushes towards the city. Within seconds it engulfs everything in plain sight. Wrecking vehicles, ripping houses off the ground, robbing lives, and leaving behind nothing but a tragic scene of devastation — changing everything you’ve carefully built, tearing you away from those you love, destroying everything you’ve ever known, all in a split second.

Nobody ever thought this Friday would turn out to be this way.


Friday, March 11 at roughly 2:30pm local time, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Northern Japan.

While state-of-the-art building safety technology saved most of the towering skyscrapers of Tokyo, the resulting giant tsunami waves from the quake did not save Sendai. Video footage revealed the devastation that the tsunami had brought. Cars are tossed aside like toys, structures demolished, the city is underwater, people are stranded in whatever remaining structures still remain standing.

Power in most of Japan is still out, as of this writing. As a result, nuclear plants at the North of Tokyo are under red alert with a lack of coolants to control the plant’s temperature.

Meanwhile, Hawaii and Los Angeles start receiving the tsunami waves that have travelled all the way from Japan’s shores. They aren’t expected to be anywhere remotely close to the magnitude of damage done in Sendai.

The Philippines wasn’t ignored by the tsunami. Luckily for us, it barely brought in more than 70cms of waves. Like Taiwan and Indonesia, our geographical positions weren’t poised to receive the worst of it.

None of us are strangers to earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes and forces of nature that render us suddenly, helpless and vulnerable. I still recall the tragedy of Ondoy and all the painful experiences it created as a result of it.

A year and a half later, I still hear stories of friends and acquaintances whose lives were irrevocably changed because of it. The toughest story to forget is a friend who braved the human-height raging flood in the attempts of getting home to her husband and children. While struggling to cross what had then already become a raging sea of floodwater, dead bodies were floating all around her.

While she made it home eventually to a family glad enough to have survived this ordeal in spite of the damage it did to their home, she will never forget the horrors she witnessed that day.

It’s a painful knock on the head. It takes calamities like these to jolt us out of our stupor of complacency and discontent. To realize all over again that life is infinitely precious and should never be taken for granted.

While watching with abject horror the cities in Japan ravaged by the tsunami, all I wanted to do was to call to an abrupt halt the meeting at work I had to sit through… and just go home to my husband where I truly belonged. I wanted to give my mom a call and tell her I love her.

Not because I was afraid of the tsunami hitting the Philippines. Not because there are rumors that countries which are part of the Ring of Fire will inevitably have their share of a catastrophic earthquake in the next few weeks.

But just because it made me realize what the most important things in life are. Everything could change in the blink of an eye. Everything or nothing could be lost by one single act of nature, one incident, one seemingly insignificant moment in time. That’s the way the world works.

If you’re still reading this post, then it means that like me, you too are lucky enough to just be an observer of this entire debacle.

Let this earthquake, and let all the tragic stories we hear about everyday remind all of us that life is too short. Too precious to take for granted. Too precious to spend time focusing on the things which in the greater scheme of things, don’t really matter as much.

Live as though there were no tomorrow. Spend time and give time to those you care about. Stop doing the things that make you unhappy. Be honest, be true to who you are. Do what you love to do. Stop doing things that make you unhappy. Live. Love. And make every moment count.

One of my favorite quotable quotes from a movie couldn’t have said it any better.

Frodo Baggins: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for us to decide. What we can decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

-The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


If you want to help the victims of the earthquake/ tsunami, visit this website. Godspeed!