May 4: Left brain-right brain. Reality-unreality. Disneyland-destruction

William Grimm, Maryknoll priest and publisher of, continues on his quest “to try to be useful” in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
They say there are two types of people – those who divide folks into two types and those who don’t. One of the current fads is to divide between people who function mostly with the right side of their brain and those who function with the left.
Right-brain people supposedly think in images, and respond to colors and shapes. They intuit. Left-brain people focus on words and logic. While there is apparently some scientific research that underlies the differences, as usual, people who build whole theories of personality and spirituality around it are certainly using only half their brain.
But, if they want a specimen that fits their theory, I may be one of the left-brainers. I love words. In fact, I even read the captions in National Geographic magazine before I look at the photos, a fact that shocked him when I told a photographer who has done work for NG.
However, after spending last week up in the disaster area, I know that words won’t be enough. So far, the most accurate word I have found to describe what I have seen up there is “Disneyland.”
I know that sounds peculiar, but it is the word that came to mind as I stood in the wreckage of Ishinomaki. It’s not that a ruined town looks at all like the Magic Kingdom. But, they do have something in common. Both of them challenge our sense of the real and unreal.
The degree of devastation – a town reduced to soggy debris – goes beyond the ability of words to describe. But, I am not sure the problem is language. There is, at least in my case, a prior difficulty. Seeing is not believing. I cannot find the words because I cannot grasp and believe I am actually seeing what is all around me. One or both sides of my brain cannot contain the reality except in some cells reserved for dancing Donald Ducks and other things that can only be true in a make-believe sense.
So, I have given in to the suggestion that I get a camera to record what I see. Perhaps readers of this blog and the other reports I send will be able to grasp the reality through pixels. Perhaps reducing the whole reality to a few square centimeters will allow them to understand something that a 360-degree view precludes. If I can figure out how to use the machine by the time I return to the Tohoku region next week, we’ll find out.
The first challenge, of course, was to actually get a camera. I have never been a picture-taker. I once lost a camera and did not realize it for five years, until someone wanted to borrow it. On the advice of the UCA News editor, I went shopping for a particular camera with a friend who also knows about such things. The editor assured me this camera is foolproof, though it remains to be seen if it be proof against this particular fool.
The first store we went to had the camera on display with a special price – a bit over ¥43,000. Not bad. So, we asked for it. It was out of stock and the salesperson said no one knows when it will be in stock again because the factory where it is produced was heavily damaged in the earthquake. Factories that work with the fine degrees of precision that cameras require are easy victims of a shakeup.
So, we went to several other stores, all displaying the same camera at the same special price. It was out of stock at all of them and the best estimate we got on repairs to the factory was three-to-four weeks. I asked my friend if the camera cost ¥43,000 when they don’t have it, what might it cost if they do. We decided that we would try one more dealer, our fifth try. They had a few in stock for ¥49,000! One question answered, anyway.
So, now I have a camera. Perhaps I should take it to Tokyo Disneyland to learn to use it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crisis in Japan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s