Friday, March 20, 2009


I went to Tokyo about four years ago, to visit my sister who was living there at the time. The night I arrived, there was a 5.1 quake at around 3am local time. I slept through it, apparently. I only found out about it the next day when she and her friends were chatting about it.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a 4.7 about 90kms out of Melbourne. People were all abuzz about it the next few days, because we don't really get a lot of earthquakes in Melbourne. I seem to have missed it, because I was nursing my fourth cocktail in a bar in the city at the time.

A couple of days ago, we had another one, same epicentre, outside of Melbourne, it was a 4.6 this time, apparently. I was at work, and I felt it. It was like a big truck was driving past, only I was on the 5th floor, so I doubt I would feel a big truck driving past, I'd only hear it.

Anyway, having finally experienced an earthquake (and remembered), I was left a little unimpressed. Things didn't fall of the shelves. Windows didn't shatter. Plaster didn't start falling from the ceiling. Something in me was left feeling a little cheated. I did, however, have a vague feeling of nausea for about half an hour afterwards, so I guess that's something.

When I was in Tokyo, I was musing over why my sister was living there. She didn't appear to love her life over there, she wasn't tied into a contract, and her reason for moving there in the first place (to be with her boyfriend) had somewhat evaporated, as he was now back in Australia.

At the time, I had just re-read Idoru by William Gibson, in which he describes a (fictional?) fashion trend in Japan where people were dressing up in bandages etc., in some subconscious way to deal with the psychic trauma of having lived through a recent massive earthquake. The notion that phenomena like earthquakes and other natural disasters manifest themselves in the cultural consciousness is one that fascinates me. I mean there are the obvious responses in the community, like the Sound Relief concerts recently held, but in what way do these massive natural events actually affect us?

My theory at the time for my sister's choice to stay in Japan was a tenuous one, but it goes like this: earthquakes are exciting, interesting, and potentially massively destructive events. Events which simultaneously put the minutiae of everyday life into perspective, and remind us of the possibility of random, instantaneous death. Could this reminder be a stimulus? Something which makes life seem that little more vibrant, keeps our senses a little bit keener, triggering our animal impulses and keeping us in readiness to take decisive action. A thrill to some, and stressful to others.

Yet we find huge masses of people voluntarily living in these danger zones. Take the millions living on the San Andreas fault line in California, for example. Surely it's not some sort of twisted death wish? Yet there does seem to be something attractive about living 'on the edge'.

1 comment:

Evol Kween said...

Exactly, and that's why Aerosmith have that song called Living on the Edge.