My heart has been so heavy reading about the devastation in Japan. A number of years ago, I was fortunate to spend six months in that beautiful country on a fellowship, meeting artists and designers, and I have a deep love for the people and the artistic culture there.
Looking at the satellite images on the NY Times website this morning, which show what the seaside towns looked like just a few days ago, and what is left in the wake of the tsunami, I thought of one of the most sacred places in Japan, the Shinto shrine at Ise Jingu, which for more than a millennia has been taken down and rebuilt nearby every twenty years. The ground where the old shrine once stood is covered in stones until it becomes the site for a new shrine 20 years later. Japan has a deep understanding of the terrible, inevitable cycle of destruction and rebirth.
While listening to the news and feeling so sad, I heard a powerful interview with the playwright Tony Kushner on WNYC which was a balm to the spirit. His work delves deep into the human response to loss and devastation, and in the interview he said that he thinks that hope is not just an emotion – it’s a moral obligation.
It’s so difficult to think about hope at a time like this. But the effort to rebuild, after devastation, is a creative act that can help us develop hope for the future.
You can listen to Andrea Bernstein’s interview with Tony Kushner here.