The Saturday before Superstorm Sandy, I was at a Halloween party. The host went to town with decorations and had massive floor to ceiling spider webs in several corners. Little did I know what foreshadowing that would be for the week ahead!
Four years ago this week we were on the eve of a historic presidential election, after a historic financial disaster. That Fall, the unimaginable became imaginable on both fronts when we chose our first Black president and watched the implosion of the stock market and our banking system. This woke us up in more ways than one, and both divided and connected us.
Fast-forward to today, and we are on the eve of yet another historic election, the outcome yet to be determined, and post another disaster, this time a natural one, which is hitting us materially as much as anything else. And we are even more divided, yet more connected than ever.
After the financial crisis of 2008, because of the actions of a relative few that rippled throughout the world, at the very least we were forced to deal with our addiction to credit and consumerism, and at the worst lost our homes and jobs because of it. Now it’s Mother Nature aided by the man-made contribution to/ignorance of climate change who teaching us that lesson with a more visceral punch as we recover from power outages and gas shortages at the least, and physical destruction of our property and loss of life at the worst.
Since this hit the tri-state area, because of its special density of population and unique connection to the global as well as local economy, no one is exempt from this lesson, as everyone has been affected in one way or another — it’s just who, what, when, where, how and level of gravity that varies.
In the middle of the storm, the façade of an apartment building in Chelsea was ripped off, showing a dollhouse-like view of the inside, a symbolic representation of what is happening to us physically and emotionally as the walls and structures between and around us are being torn down in order to reveal the truth of our lives.
Our interconnectedness and vulnerability have been thrown in our face — not only through weather, power, gas, goods and services, transportation and social media, but relationally too. How long can you coexist in the disconnected dark, live back at Mom’s, stay at your friend’s, or sleep with strangers at a shelter 24/7? How many days can you work from home, or miss work altogether, or have three-hour commutes, or wait hours in line for gas without losing it?
Community is a funny thing in New York — we like the anonymity and self-sufficiency of living on top of each other and the illusion of togetherness that brings, but actually having to interact and be with each other and ask for or receive help is another story.
People have mentioned how Sandy is too “nice” a moniker for what she did, but just like the gentle soul of Frankenstein for which she was also named, there is goodness to be found underneath the external horror of her monsterous appearance. She is asking us to come together like never before and question the deepest meaning of our lives; she is forcing us not only to realize but to actually experience the ways in which we are now more connected than ever, more interdependent than at any other time in history. And it is a gift because experience is usually the only way we humans learn, and that, as painful as it may be, is something to be grateful for if we choose to accept it as such.
Like big elections, these are the occasions when we focus passionately around something that impacts us all; they bring out the best and worst in us. We get to see people’s true colors, good, bad or indifferent; how flexible we can be; how generous and open-hearted we are, how we distill down what is vitally important, what is a necessity, and what is merely a luxury — or when suddenly those necessities become luxuries after not having them for a few days.
Such events test our patience, politeness, perseverance and willingness to exist in the present. They also shows us the incredible strength and spirit of humanity, our willingness to help one another, our capacity for leadership and organization, and our ability to rise to the occasion in times of crisis.
So remember, when we wake up tomorrow morning, no matter what the result of this election is, and no matter where you live in this country or on this planet, what we do know for sure, now more than ever, is that we are all in this together.
Originally published on kristinaleonardi.com on November 6, 2012
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