In the short two and weeks since the dawn of 2020, I am shocked by the daily news of disasters in our world.
Rising tensions between the US and Iran have involved murder, and missile strikes. The shooting down of a civilian aircraft that killed all 176 people on board shocked Canadians as 138 passengers, 57 of whom were Canadian citizens, were bound for destinations in Canada. Many were academics and professionals returning from a holiday break.
In the US, the Senate begins an impeachment trial of the President.
Bush fires burn out of control in Australia resulting in death for some leaving many homeless. Many people who live away from the fires suffer breathing problems from the smokey haze that covers the continent. By the millions, helpless animals perish.
News of disastrous storms and tornadoes keep the dangers of climate change foremost in our minds. Volcanos erupt causing people to flee their homes in the Philippines.
As I listen to the news stories of such disasters, I feel helpless and insignificant. The feeling causes me to remember a poem brought to me by a former colleague. Both of us were members of the AAMFT (American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists). After attending a conference featuring talks on bringing peace and change to the world, both of us felt that our small contributions were inconsequential.
A few days later, during a snowstorm, my colleague referred me to this poem ‘Tell me the Weight of a Snowflake’ from New Fables, Thus Spoke the Marabou — by Kurt Kauter. Here is the poem.
“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a coal-mouse asked a wild dove.
“Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.
“In that case, I must tell you a marvellous story,” the coal-mouse said.
“I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow — not heavily, not a blizzard –no, just like in a dream, without a wound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch — nothing more than nothing, as you say, the branch broke off.”
Having said that, the coal-mouse flew away.
The dove, since Noah’s time, an authority on the matter, thought about the story for a while and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”
The coal-mouse is a species of small titmouse with a distinctive black head. It is also known as a coaltit and is found in Europe.
As with all fables, there is a moral in the story. A small bird is unlikely to feel powerful in the grand scheme of things. Yet, it observes the peripheral changes that come with each of the 3 million-plus snowflakes.
When I feel insignificant and helpless, I remember that fable. I take comfort in the fact that, at some point, the branch breaks from the weight of each seemingly insignificant snowflake. The weight of each snowflake is minuscule, yet it contributes to the overall mass, thus causing breakage.
Rather than despair over the weight of disasters in our world, we can fight complacency — each of us doing so in our own way.
Despair is dangerous because it takes hope away. Lack of hope brings on those feelings of insignificance and helplessness. When hope disappears, fear sets in.
Rather than wallowing in despair and becoming fearful, let’s acknowledge the pain, grief, and helplessness around us. We can speak out about the wrongs and injustices around us. We can practise self-love. We can keep loving our family and friends. We can be kind. We can foster positive change in our communities. We can seek out and acknowledge the small, but good and beautiful things around us. Let’s look to the future with anticipation of possibilities and better times yet to come.
Thanks for reading my post. May this fable inspire you to re-think disasters in our world. Please send your thoughts and ideas for staying positive in the face of global disasters in your comments to this post.