Three years ago, one of the largest and rare ‘longest’ earthquakes rocked my hometown, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia; the moment that made me realize the fickleness of Mother Nature. The earthquake was on everyone’s minds. Even though it wasn’t something new, this catastrophe extremely increased in both frequency and intensity.
Scientists believe that such an increase is due to a combination of natural and made-made factors. Instead of focusing on the natural scientific explanation, I would rather talk about its made-made factor. Human actions, for example, contribute to the suffering and destruction of the earth. The problem does not lie merely on the earth’s design that is vulnerable or inadequate; instead, it is human with greed, selfishness, and stupidity that is the cause of its vulnerability and inadequacy.
So here’s a horrific story of mine…
The horror I felt was utterly vivid that resulted in it being the trauma that lasted for quite some time. I was petrified –whenever I heard or felt as if I heard something that sounds like crashing, dropping, or colliding, I instantly panicked and went tense, anxious, and jumpy– and thus unable to sleep well.
At least there were six earthquakes that were stronger than 5.5 magnitudes. The ‘opening’ of the series of these continuous earthquakes and aftershocks was started by a 6.4-magnitude quake on 29 July 2018. According to the National Disaster Management Authority (BMKG), there were over 585 aftershocks that occurred until 5 August 2018. Another earthquake of 6.9 magnitudes struck. This one was way powerful than the first one. The number of casualties and damaged buildings undeniably continued to rise.
Just four days later, on 9 August 2018, a 5.9-magnitude quake rattled. Again, on 19 August 2018 which was ten days after that, we were shaken by two massive quakes. They had magnitudes of 6.3 and 7.0 taking place in the afternoon and evening respectively, followed by a number of aftershocks.
I still recall when I shouted and rushed to my father’s bed to wake him up. I still recall the eerie moment when my mother was weeping while calling my big sister with her trembling voice to quickly leave her bedroom. Thank God! The second she ran, the wall of the room cracked and some collapsed. I still can recall when I witnessed my house was shaking and some surrounding buildings fell. I also can recall when the power suddenly went out and my three-month-old nephew could not stop crying. So, we slept in a tent we built which was surrounded by the debris of houses and rubbles.
I shed tears. I was shaky. I did not sleep a wink that night. I was aware of nowhere to escape from this catastrophe. I laid down in some sort of an alleyway and looked up at the sky. The truth is it was as if I was expecting another earthquake because I knew more of it would strike again and again. I was right. The next earthquake with 5.5 magnitudes and numerous aftershocks shook. BMKG recorded there were approximately 2000 aftershocks both felt and not. I lost my strength and fell sick the following day. Nonetheless, I was grateful that my family remained complete.
We weren’t living comfortably. Most of us lived in a tent made of tarpaulin, which got hot during the day. For over five months going through such endless quakes, we all tried our best to be there and give each other a hand. We made sure the supplies of water, food, batteries, and whatnot and shared whatever we had.
Contemplating all of the natural disasters I have gone through my entire life such as floods, earthquakes, landslide, and volcanic eruptions, brought me to try to answer these following personal questions: “Have I properly prepared for what comes in life and death?; have I stocked up adequate spiritual resilience and mental strength?; how can I change things better?; how can I, as a human being, become the earth caretaker?” Questions that I strongly believe would bring us closer to tranquility and peace on many levels including personal, communal, and natural.
“Then will you not reason?” (Quran 11:51).
PS: Regarding the wisdom behind calamities that happen, a few years ago I attempted to fathom it from my personal journey and transformed it in the form of a brief picture story called 2018 Fluctuation, which hopefully can be useful in giving a perspective on understanding life and acquiring inner wisdom.