Earth Speaks in Haiti

All our careful plans and fervent hopes are devastated by one brief shudder in earth’s crust. In the face of such appalling suffering and destruction, an offering of words seems an obscene gesture.

Yet words must come, not only to spurn on our action, but to reconstruct the world of meaning which a cataclysm threatens. They must come forth like tears of babies crying in the night. Perhaps the words might act like little beacons for the dark voyage ahead.

“God has issued judgment.” But what kind of God would be so cruel to the innocent and those whose history is a putrid wallow of undeserved pain? And so some have said, “Earth has spoken.” Here, perhaps we might gain purchase on the scaffold of meaning we might erect to reconstruct our world. But what would that mean?

Earth has moved. It is earth’s way. Without the molten mantle life itself would not exist. The earth would die, become a cold cinder. But has earth spoken? Has earth entered into communication with the human creatures? Has earth conveyed some meanings to the living scab that huddles on its crust? What could we be hearing even through the cries of people trapped beneath the rubble?

“Earth has spoken.” Earth says, Please, where I have rubbed my plates together do not settle and build homes. Where I have spit forth rivers of molten rock do not construct your workplaces and fields. And yet our memories are so short compared to earth’s.

Our fear of insufficiency and our rampant overreaching impel us to claim habitat where earth has issued warning. Even then, we hardly know what hidden ruptures undercut the oceans and the seas. Earth will move in unexpected ways with consequences we cannot predict.

“Earth has spoken.” Does this mean Earth has consciousness, intent, design? The earth religions say it/he/she does. It has persona that can speak and act with us, dance with us. No longer able to say God is “he,” we turn to Earth as “she,” as mothering urge of Life. But how can Mother say to kill and destroy?

Is Mother only Kali, the great Hindu god of destruction? Is Her only word to die and be the fodder of rebirth? Is the voice of person-Earth the end of voicefulness for all her creatures? Or is Earth’s voice a call to deeper reconciliation with the Earth and Earth-life, known in quake as well as quickening? In this conflagration are there seeds of reconciliation? Of new relationships among the people and in how they live upon their part of earth?

Perhaps our path of meaning in the face of Earth’s destruction is to wrest from resignation a sense of reconciliation with Earth’s ways. Let us listen more carefully through seismographs and observation where and how we ought to live. Let us seek a deeper harmony, not one that drains our life of awe and even fear, but one that asks for active collaboration in the work of Earth life.

In the land of slavery, of violent liberation, of suffering for sugar’s sweetness and decay, of patient faith and brutal oppression, maybe, perhaps, we might reclaim some sense of working with this fragile earth in all its force and ravishing fecundity. Maybe, then, we might be able to say that we have listened as Earth speaks.