Today, I flew from San Francisco to Dallas to Toronto for the Mozilla Developer Days. Halfway through my flight, I glanced out of the window and found myself face to face with Ike.
The monster of wind and water that ravaged my hometown concealed itself behind ragged gray clouds and wore an obscuring white haze like a cloak of impunity. I was eye level with the hurricane that flooded my home and destroyed so many places I loved along the Texas coast. I wanted to anthropomorphize a masochistic deity, to find a face in that tattered mass of clouds and shake my fist at it. I wanted to be angry. But, for all its hellacious destruction, it was not really there. Ike was only energy. You could stand in that cyclopic eye and stretch your hand into the turbulence of the eyewall, and you would not touch a thing. I didn’t know how to feel at that moment.
I look again at Ike. The spiral bands are broken. The thunderheads are fragmented. It is dying. Thinking of my town, the town I unabashedly hated for years, I see a kindred fragility. In one moment, everything is there, all the potential, the palatable substance, the vitality of life, everything we can chose to love or to hate. And in the next, a tumultuous fragility, a humbling vulnerability. You, me, the places we live, even the dying Ike are all linked in this common paradox. Though we may cling to the demagnetized compass of the past, though we may blindly trust the unwritten future, all we really have is this one singular present moment.
It is only natural to focus on the damage and what has been lost–it’s on all our minds and it weighs on our souls. As the waters recede, as we return to our homes, we will start talking about rebuilding. But, rebuilding doesn’t start with ripping out mildewed carpets and tearing down waterlogged Sheetrock. It doesn’t start with interminable calls to insurance agencies and FEMA. It doesn’t even start with coming home.
Rebuilding starts in our hearts. It starts now, wherever we are. Look to your loved ones, hold them close. If we rebuild by starting in our hearts first, then we start to rebuild the entire world, and not just our town.