Thursday, March 19, 2015

Empty Chairs

I asked a buddy to write a guest post the other day and he said he would leave the navel gazing to me. He is working in South Sudan where things are not looking particularly optimistic. I may talk a big game repeating scenes from Braveheart and Gladiator but it is guys like Guy who get on with helping out on the front lines. I asked him if there was a book I could read to get to understand the issues more. He said he doesn't know much about that, but 'I do know landmines and unexploded ordnances'. I do feel particularly lucky that I am able to pontificate about happiness from the comfort of various coffee shops around the world. While I may think the first response to someone who is less than happy is 'Are you exercising?', that does assume they are not afraid of not making it to the end of the day alive.

Today's global coffee shop is Beat Street Cafe in Christchurch. New Zealand is far from the troubles of a South Sudan. The people are friendly. You feel very safe. They love rugby. They aren't going to spoil the party by beating South Africa in the cricket semi-final. Basically, Kiwis are sweet as. Even then, stuff does go wrong. Wandering the city on my first night here was sobering. Over the course of 2010-2012 the city was struck by a number of earthquakes. Christchurch is one of four cities in the world where the CBD is designed as a square of four avenues with complementing city squares and surrounding parklands. The other three of the same design are Philadelphia, Savannah and Adelaide. Over 1000 buildings in the CBD, between those four avenues, were destroyed following the earthquakes. 185 people died. There is a powerful temporary art sculpture with a white chair for each of those lost.

185 empty chairs commemorate those lost in the 2011 earthquake

Every now and then we can be pulled out of navel gazing with a slap to the face. Someone we love can be torn from us by disease, our entire city can be shaken or one of the good guys might not get to the unexploded landmine before we do. Ideally we don't need these traumatic events to shake us into consciousness. A certain amount of pondering is needed to think about what and who matters to you, but then you need to get on with it.

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