Friday, 22 January 2010

Il tempo fa bello - ma ........



The weather is beautiful in Italy at the moment - the sun warm enough to have coffee on the terrace in only jumper and jeans. The nights are cold - down to 2 degrees, but it’s worth enduring them for the clear skies studded with stars. Mars is visible at the moment, large and very, very red. Mars, the planet of War and human aggression, of which there is plenty. No doubt, if I knew where to look, Saturn is out there too, spinning its rings of misery-dust.
It seems unfair to be in such idyllic surroundings when there is so much suffering in the world - and I’m thinking continually of Haiti, where people are still being miraculously plucked from the rubble. What I can’t bear to think about are those who survived the quake and then perished, buried alive, for want of rescue.
The numbers of dead and missing are staggering. Somehow it’s always the poor countries, the deprived areas, that suffer most. Those rich enough to be able to afford to get out of such places have gone long ago, so only the poor remain. They can’t afford good, well-built housing, earthquake proof, and they don’t have the political power to force their government to build it for them. And, as in the Chinese quake, they are vulnerable to corruption. We don’t live in a fair, well-balanced world, but one that sometimes makes me ashamed to be human.
Here in Italy there is a great deal of sympathy for the Haitians and the Italian mobile phone companies have set up a text-and-donate service, asking everyone for 2.50 euros - a small amount, but multiplied by a million or so .......
The earth we live on doesn’t conform to any health and safety regs, as the Italians know very well. All around us there are examples of the earth’s violent activity - Italy is literally being torn in half. In the mountains we found a ruined tower - no idea how old - medieval perhaps, though some ruins date back to the Romans or even to the Etruscans. But, though the walls are several feet thick, the tower was destroyed centuries ago by an earthquake that no one now remembers. People still live in this area, though the settlement around the tower has long since vanished. I sometimes think that we humans manage to live in disaster zones only because living memory goes back so few years, relative to the passage of geological time.
When I look at the tower I wonder what happened to the houses that once surrounded it, to the people who lived in them and what their stories were. So much of our past history survives only in myth and legend - come down to us as stories; Atlantis, Noah’s flood, the Iliad, the Norse sagas, the Welsh Mabinogion. And I wonder what will survive of us in story 2,000 years from now?

2 comments:

  1. Everything in life is transitory except for the spirit. Houses, belongings, even our most precious keepsakes will crumble to dust.

    It's the experiences that we take with us; nothing else.

    I have to remember that every time I think twice about getting rid of baby clothes my son has outgrown. I get all misty-eyed.

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  2. Frosty nights and stars.
    The two bring back so many memories.

    The horror of the Haitian earthquake is truly magnified by their poverty.
    The Kobe earthquake was of a similar magnitude. Japan is a first world country though so there were "only" about 7,000 deaths.

    I am envious of your Italian experience. That's it, keep rubbing my nose in it, just tripping over lost ruins.

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