Midnight concluded the official mourning period here. The uneasy silence is broken.
I am uniquely disqualified to discuss emotional responses, for the simple reason that my emotive expression is apparently inversely proportional to the intensity of that emotion. That stated, on to the discussion.
The mourning was clearly a sort of offshoot from national pride. I can’t nail down whether it is part of the Chinese cultural identity to be rocked so deeply or if it was the proffering of an expected reaction, so I won’t try. All I know is it brought back the atmosphere of the days surrounding Ace’s death at school. Most of us barely knew him, so we could honestly say we were largely unaffected. At the same time, we were acutely aware of the intense distress of those around and among us, and desperately wished to commiserate. I remember watching girls gush tears and stifle sobs in mouths that had never spoken a word to him. It seemed unavoidably appropriate at the time. And discomfortably pretentious.
So I was left to navigate the choppy waters of emotion without any depth gauge. I was assured by my students that discussing the earthquake—engaging its effects—would be a good step. At its first mention, the bright clouded and the garrulous fell mute. I was usually left to expound my own thoughts without the input of those most obviously affected. And with mixed success.
Certainly, we are all saddened by the loss of life. Especially as the rubble is sifted through the chunky sieve of human understanding in a desperate search for answers. Talking with students and Chinese friends has reminded me that platitudes don’t placate, yet they are all most people have. They’re the same platitudes that got tossed around when Ace died, only without the religious verbiage.
They didn’t mean much then either.