Thinking Disaster that Comes without Coming

Image Source: Harvard Business Review

We all have experiences of disasters. Disasters threatens us. It is like a sword of Damocles hanging over our head. We cannot escape it. It is a possibility that we cannot avoid anticipating. Covid-19 is one such disaster that has put us into a state of emergency. But this has also exhibited the dark side of humanity. In our effort to avoid disaster, we often have become a monstrous disaster. This does not mean disaster draws the worst out of us. Disaster has also the ways of getting the best out of us. We have both angels and demons coming out of disasters. Although disaster hits our interiority, it is primarily exterior to us. Disaster is not our affair. It has no regard for us. It is heedless and does not care. We cannot totalize it. The idea of totality seems to fall short to capture a disaster. It seems to always escape us. we cannot delimit a disaster. It is always in the coming and is ever-growing. We cannot fully anticipate its momentum and its embrace. Even death seems to become weak in front of a disaster. Death does not abandon us to the raging disaster but seems to free us from it. This is a disastrous illusion that thinks that suicide liberates. Hence, we become passive in the face of disaster. It seems that disaster takes care of everything as we stand paralysed simply by its magnitude.

Disaster ruins everything and leaves everything to its fate and moves on. It does not wait for anyone. It just swallows anything and everything on its path. It exceeds our consciousness. It is an overload on our consciousness. It numbs our mind. It shocks us to the point of inaction. Hence, perhaps the passivity in the face of a disaster has to be understood as an absence of politics/ absence of action. We prefer amnesia and wish to forget disaster. It is frightening us and is sending shivers down our spine. This is because it comes from the back of time without giving any signal that indicates and makes us ready in advance for its advent. We cannot totalize and manage it. But it is not absolute. We can still hope. This hope is a belief in the goodness of nature, humans and God. Disaster cannot kill our hope. We have a tremendous capacity to hope. No disaster can extinguish the lamp of hope. It also cannot kill human solidarity. It gives us an increasing sense that says, ‘ we are all in it together ‘. But we also have a sense that we have to face it without a star to guide us. Its etymology points us to this absence of a guiding star. It says that we are disowned by stars and we do not have a safe passage in life. It opens us to the absolute horizon that remains open and beyond our anticipation. Disaster deconstructs our world at many levels. It burns and distils our familiar signs and referents into new precipitates. Disaster is not a black slate/ tabula rasa. It does not open the drawing board so that we can resemiotize all signs. It leaves us with precipitated and metamorphosed signs.

Everything seems to come under erasure with the coming of disaster. We are haunted by the ghosts of disaster as we begin to survive a disruptive extreme event. We have to reassemble life from the leftovers and move on learning our lessons from our earth-shattering experience. We are afflicted by the trauma of the disruption that has left us. This means disaster is acting itself out in us. We are dislocated. We experience a break and a disruption and have to deal with it. We cannot relate to disaster as a terminated history. We have not reached a dead end. There is a glimmer of hope for us. But we cannot wait for the coming of good times on a back of an idolized iconic hero that will change things for us. We have the challenge to survive by taking things into our hands. This means we have to deal with that which comes without arriving. This is the real disaster. It is the passivity of inaction and dependence on someone that cannot be exactly named and remains unknown but one that is imagined as a deliverer from all consequences of the disaster.

In several ways, this hope in the coming of the favourable future sets us apart and we are willing to wait aimlessly to the passing of the disaster and the coming of the iconic deliverer. In fact, in the wake of the extreme experience, we seem to stumble on the politics of inaction. Therefore disaster leaves us aside as it holds us. This means it holds us and leaves us at the same time. Our desire for a familiar foreseeable closed future leads us to project the coming of an iconic hero. But being set aside is our strength. We can stand up to the crippling experience and believe in ourselves and hope in our God. It is our challenge to walk by faith and not by sight. We cannot allow the disaster to other us from what we are. We can pick up the leftovers of our life and orient them with courage.

We find ourselves on the edge of disaster without being able to tell the fortunes of our future. Therefore, catastrophizing an interruption as an end of history and waiting aimlessly for the coming of some foreign time on the back of an iconic leader/ hero is actually a true disaster that comes on us without coming. This is why we have to face with courage the face of this disaster by our God-given strength. To be overwhelmed into politics of inaction is to let our present and future be arrested by the disaster. The real disaster, therefore, comes without coming after the catastrophic event. It is self-inflicted by us and hence it comes without really coming. Let us not allow this disaster to happen to us. We have the courage of strength to face all disruptions without letting them become disasters. Indeed there is no disaster. Let us not catastrophize a disruptive extreme event and become a disaster ourselves. Let us not be obscured by obscure events.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao