Anxiety and community.

We gathered in the parking lot to put up tents and inventory our supplies. There were about 20 folks there; I knew about half of them. We talked about how we can make ourselves safe, and about our fear that we can’t really make ourselves safe at all. We talked about reaching out to our neighbors, and about how most of our neighbors don’t really want to talk about it.

The Hub drill July 29 was theoretically supposed to be about sending messages on the radio, but we didn’t send a single one. It was more important for people to talk to each other in person. We had a big talking circle where we introduced ourselves and shared whatever useful knowledge we have, or our questions if we don’t know anything. Then we split into two groups; one to talk about the specifics of preparedness and the other to talk about connecting to our community.

This method was successful! People felt good about meeting other people with the same concerns. We made real and comforting social connections. We heard from some interesting individuals with relevant experience: One woman had been through the early days of Hurricane Katrina; one man has rigged his house and garden shed to be an off-the-grid refuge in case of disaster. They shared what they know, and helped other people feel empowered.

As the volunteer leader of the Hub, I am more and more convinced that “emergency preparedness” is a proxy for the general anxiety that pervades our society. Everyone knows it’s impossible to “prepare” for a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. It’s a civilization-ending event, should it occur. Everything from British Columbia to northern California would be uninhabitable for a decade or more. You can read it in the Cascadia Rising after-action reports: FEMA, Washington State, State of Oregon, Seattle Times.

So if we can’t survive “The Big One,” what are we doing at the Hub? I think we’re seeking other people who perceive the same threats that we do, and who experience the same anxiety. I think we want to know how other people deal with the fear that everything we know and love could be wiped away in an unpredictable moment. How are we, as human beings, supposed to cope with that? Does anyone know? Has anyone discovered a humane and compassionate way to alleviate some of the tension that we feel every day?

Well, yes. There are some such folks. None of us have perfect ideas, but it is comforting to hear what other people have to say, and to see them taking action in their own lives. Some people are deliberately practical. Some are explicitly spiritual. Some just want to be around other people! It all works.

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