The restless earth – how Japan’s earthquake brought us closer…literally (Part One)

When we walk on the ground it feels stable under our feet. When I look around me, I see many trees that have been there for much longer than I’ve been alive. Yet, they are barely infants compared to the rocks and the earth. The dirt we walk on every day has been in that place for a long, long time. And yet…

Under our feet is a restless, restless earth. Fire, magma, and wandering tectonic plates. What seems static is a sea of endless change, with us just perched on the very thinnest small top layer looking out into the universe. The massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011 reminded us of that. 80 miles off the eastern coast of Japan, six miles below the surface on the ocean floor, a rift opened up hundreds of miles wide, causing huge portions of the Earth’s crust to tumble inside. Eastern Japan shifted 13 feet closer to the U.S. More of the earth’s mass shifted to the center – Japan is now about two feet closer to the earth’s core. The Earth’s axis shifted. And the earth sped up its rotation, shortening the day 1.6 microseconds. Pause for a moment – our day with it’s predictable measurements of seconds, minutes and hours – something that we regard as absolutely stable is now shorter.

And from the movements of this one spot on the restless earth came reverberating movement across the globe. Tsunamis came through Hawaii and hit California and the Pacific side of South America. A Mayor in the beach town of Pueblo Nuevo de Colan in Peru described how the water withdrew 300 meters from the beach and then returned in force, destroying seaside homes. I saw this reverberation on a smaller scale on the Island of Saint John in 2010 when a cruise ship went by a bay we had kayaked into. The displacement of water caused by this huge object raised the water level, but then sucked all the water out of the bay. We could see the ocean floor hundreds of feet out. Fish flopped on land. Then the water came flying back in, flooding the area, sending sea urchins and everything tumbling. This continued again and again with slowly lessening intensity. It answered my internal question of how ocean flotsam was stuck on the sides of trees a few feet off the air.

(This post is continued tomorrow – stay tuned!)

This post is part of a series by Rob Fletcher that examines the power of purpose to engage, inspire, energize and build happiness. Purpose, or meaning, is what happens when you connect your individual life and work with something larger than just you. This is the point where you meet the world. The power of purpose is explored in Quixote Consulting’s Charity Team Building and Collaborative Team Building events.

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