Japan Diary

The Flattening

By August 19, 2020No Comments

Standing in front of our condo waiting for my son to come out before going skateboarding at our local park. It is the hottest time of the day and year, midday and mid-august and I am sweating profusely. Looking for a sliver of shade for relief I spot a section on a nearby stoop. I sit down facing the road in front of our condo.

While waiting I pass the time away staring at a cicada who is lying flat on its back in the middle of the road. One part of me wants to save it’s life and turn it right side up. The other part wants to see Mother Nature’s plan. Like a drama playing out in real time the cicada flutters it’s wings righting itself and trying to fly away. After a few flutters it ends up on its back again and the process begins all over again. Success, failure, success failure. I root for success thinking to myself, “Come on little feller you can do it.” On its back again there was far less movement than before. Was it giving up? Or was it waiting to regain energy to try again? I waited with bated breath.

As you may or may not know cicadas have a short life. Every August in Japan after emerging from the ground they find their place in trees to shed their earthly skin and together form a loud ear piercing chorus for days on end until their demise. This one was clearly nearing its end.

Mother Nature can be cruel, but humans crueler. Re-energized, the cicada tried again to right itself and fly away. Like knowing the climax of a movie, spotting a white Toyota Prius coming in the direction of the cicada I know how this will play out. Just as it righted itself, the Prius’ right front and back tire rolled over the cicada. With the sweltering heat emanating from the road the flattening was more dramatic by the squishing sound. Should I have moved to save the little feller? After all it was going to die anyway. The automobile just moved the end of life timeline a little earlier. I didn’t and it’s done.

Maybe I am callous because of all the deaths I have experienced in my life. Maybe it is because I know the bug was going to die soon one way or another. Maybe it was because it was just a bug.

After the bug debacle I got to thinking about Covid-19 and how the goal of countries is to flatten the curve. In Japan as of this writing there are a few hundred infections per day in Tokyo, less than 20,000 infections overall and very few deaths. The reason for the success is now clear; Masks, disinfectant, small gatherings and open spaces to name a few. I can say with certainty that most of life here has not really changed all that much in the last few months. People are now accustomed to protecting oneself and others. Businesses and shops remain open, the economy I am sure has taken a big hit, but we have not felt it yet. And there is no talk of needing another stimulus payment for individuals and businesses.

I am sure by now you are wondering how this relates to the cicada story. To be honest I thought the same thing when I first started writing. What I like to do is start by writing and see where it takes me. Well I can say that I have found my way and will weave these two seemingly separate ideas together.

Whereas humans have power to take life, think Prius and cicada, so too does Mother Nature. Mother Nature’s Prius.? Covid-19. Her goal is to flatten in a completely different way. Weed out the sick and unhealthy. Thinking that we can outsmart something barely seen under a microscope is short-sighted. Something so minuscule is wreaking havoc across the world and we cannot stop it. And leading the way is the US, which is now, like the cicada on its back trying to right itself. Success, failure, success failure …

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