The Silver Lining of Disaster
Before reading this post, please answer the poll question below:
Disasters occur constantly. They affect different people at different times, but when a person is a target of disaster, he or she may feel hopeless. While disasters seem to be the antithesis of the University of Michigan School of Literature, Science and the Arts’ theme this semester (what makes life worth living), people should consider a different outlook. I realized this upon reading Rebecca Solnit’s article “Disaster: Notes on bad weather and good government.”
Disasters have many more positive outcomes than most people would think. As Solnit said, “in disaster the impact is shared.” This collective impact creates a sense of community for those who are suffering. People are brought together who may never have willingly come together before. This was evident in my family when my aunt was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer four years ago. While my family members would get together for the major holidays, they were not very close and there was often tension. Upon the diagnosis of my aunt’s cancer, all of my aunts started to call each other regularly and over time, even planned vacation weekends together. They wanted to make the end of my aunt’s life special. Now that my aunt has passed away, my aunts are still very close and maintain the traditions that they started with my late aunt. From an outsider’s perspective, I think that my family realized how fragile life is and that they should be respectful of their loved ones. As tragic as this incident was, it strengthened the bond in my family.
Besides a sense of community, tragedies force people to live in the present. As Solnit described, “disaster can be understood as a crash course in consciousness.” So many people are lost in their worries about what will happen tomorrow, or they are dwelling on mistakes they made in the past. When an incident occurs that is unexpected, they must change their state of thought in order to problem solve and overcome obstacles that they face in the present. Even though the present may seem negative at first, in the moment that a disaster occurs, people will think of what matters to them most. For instance, during the terrorist attacks of 911, some people who were in hijacked planes called their loved ones to say goodbye. Some said “I love you” for the first time in a while, realizing that it may be their last chance to do so. This opportunity to remember what matters in life helps people put things into perspective. While they may be stressed with their jobs or conflicts, they should remember all that they have and they should be grateful. This opportunity to live in the present causes people to focus on what is important in life, such as their family and friends. So, in the end, what seems to be the antithesis of what makes life worth living actually makes life worth living.
Think again about how you answered the poll. Unlike what you may have originally thought, there is in fact a silver lining to disaster.