Sunday, 13 March 2011

☳ Shaking: The Unavoidable ☳

Miyagai Prefecture, March 11, 2011. 8.9 - 9.1 magnitude earthquake.
"When a man has learned within his heart what fear and trembling mean, he is safeguarded against any terror produced by outside influences. Let the thunder roll and spread terror a hundred miles around: he remains so composed and reverent in spirit that the sacrificial rite is not interrupted." -I Ching; 51 (Shock) Wilhelm-Baynes

I read a book a few years ago, called "The Unthinkable; Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why," by Time magazine writer Amanda Ripley, which analyzes the experiences of survivors of some of the most shocking and tragic events of our time and the last century, including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, fires and shipwrecks. The basic conclusion of the book is that people respond to disasters and tragedies, during and after, according to two things: their general psychodynamic structure, which is still poorly understood, and their training and preparation, which is very well understood.

Unprepared people respond to acutely terrifying events poorly, often doing the wrong thing, and just as frequently doing nothing at all, like a "deer in headlights." If you saw them in a movie, you'd be yelling at them, "run, run!," or whatever the obviously logical thing would be to do. Ripley's research shows that people without training psychologically freeze when they are terrified, and often miss their opportunities to save themselves, and sometimes others, because they do nothing, paralyzed by fear.  However, people who have already thought through a situation, who have thought through the unthinkable, and even more so people who have been thoroughly trained to deal with a situation, have a distinct survival advantage over those with no psychological or physical training.


The reason soldiers (and police officers) are required to drill, drill, drill; to fight, to use their weapons, run long distances, and often to endure grueling conditions, is because military trainers have long known that during war, which, taken as a whole, is probably the most frightening and gruesome of human experiences, if soldiers are not thoroughly trained, the physical and psychological effects of fear will overtake them, and they will become useless, surrendering or being killed.

A martial artist in a fight, likewise, responds physically through their trained responses, and they remain psychologically stable throughout the event; as does a well-trained athlete in a sports game. A serious student knows that an exam can be a stressful situation, with real consequences, but that, if they are prepared, despite feeling fear in their body, they will respond correctly from their training, rather than suffering unnecessary stress and confusion, and consequent failure. Of course, the concept is simple and logical. Practice makes perfect. Preparedness makes security.

Clearly, when something goes terribly wrong, you have much higher odds of mitigating potential damage, and not being emotionally and psychologically scarred by the event, if you are, to some degree, prepared for it. The higher your degree of preparation, both physically and psychologically, the better you will likely fare. This is not only simple logical deduction, but illustrated in the accounts described in  Ripley's book.

So why then, when it is logically obvious that preparation for a major disaster is a good idea, do we not give it our best effort? The answer is clearly denial, as a product of cognitive dissonance. We are already deer in headlights. On a subconscious level, we have already responded to the threat by freezing. "Can't do anything about that."   Whereas, if you were were watching a movie about earthquakes and the movie made it bleedingly obvious that a person lives in a place that is likely to suffer a major earthquake (and potentially tsunami), and that there are very clear and simple things people can do to prepare, you would be yelling at the screen, "what are you doing? Start preparing! What are you waiting for?" But denial is a powerful thing.

So let me make things bleedingly obvious, and please indulge me in my hope that you will make some effort to overcome cognitive dissonance; to escape, with awareness intact, the birthplace of your irrational and dangerous enemy, denial.

red = danger

As is clearly established by the USGS's Earthquake Hazards program, the most thorough and eminent earthquake research program on the planet, the Southern California area is roughly 150 years overdue for a major earthquake. See more info on the science and the predicted consequences in my recent post: "Earthquakes and Whistles"  A 'major' or 'great' earthquake (see explanation of these terms) would be extremely detrimental to the lives of the vast majority of people in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. The same could be said for plenty of other places in the world, so let's not limit this to Los Angeles.  The San Francisco Bay Area should be alert, also.   However, So.Cal may represent the most likely risk, and the best understood. People say earthquakes cannot be predicted. That is untrue. The earthquake has been predicted. It's only the timing that is unclear.

James G. Featherstone
Having long thought the usual 3-day (72 hour) personal preparedness plan typically prescribed by government officials and the Red Cross was ridiculous, two years ago I asked James G. Featherstone, General Manager of the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department, directly, in person: "how long can people reasonably expect to go without any help or attention after a major earthquake in Los Angeles?" He was taken aback by the question and his answer was solemnly spoken.  He said that the absolute minimum would be three days and that most people would likely be without help for a week or longer. He added that individual cases would be dealt with in order of priority, by the basic principles of triage. That means that you having no water, food, or shelter would put you in line after people who are severely injured, and being severely injured you would be after people who are critically wounded.

The three day target for preparedness is arbitrary and, in my opinion, an irresponsible recommendation. Look at the aftermath of Katrina. How long were those people without help? Many for weeks.  In a likely So.Cal event of the magnitude expected, Featherstone also confirmed for me, there would be no drinkable water or electricity for many residents for a few weeks or more.  Could it take months to rebuild LA's long-distance water importing infrastructure?  Watching the video linked in my previous earthquake post will help you understand why the damage to infrastructure could be so massive.  Which resources are cut off for what length of time will depend on many factors.

Local governments are currently drastically underfunded and they simply can't well serve several million people in need.  So it's your responsibility.  Your life.


So how do you know that preparing will do you any good? Well, you can't prepare for everything - that is true. You may make reasonable preparations and ultimately be trapped in a building with no access to your supplies, or ways to execute your well-thought out plan. However, as Ripley's research shows, you will STILL have a distinct advantage over those who hadn't done anything, who hadn't thought anything through, because you are, to some degree, psychologically prepared. You did your research, you know what to expect, so you are far less likely to go into "deer in headlights" mode and succumb to your own demise. You will at least fare better psychologically than the person who is all of a sudden realizing that they have no idea what to do, whatsoever; who does the wrong thing, or does nothing at all. There will be lots of those. Let's look at one important example of how people who are prepared, and who organize with each other, fare in contrast with those who don't.

Tangshan EQ: 7.8 + 7.8 aftershock
Take into account the story of Qinglong County in the 1976 "Great Tangshan Earthquake," the most devastating earthquake of modern times. Earthquake predictions had been voiced and very few counties in the region took them seriously. At least one county, however, did prepare:

After voicing the concerns to Wang Chunqing (王春青), his county took the report very seriously. Already some sources showed that the county had been preparing as much as two years earlier. [8] Up to 800 members of his county tried to respond.[1] On July 25 and 26, 1976 each community of Qinglong county had emergency meetings to prepare and instruct villagers. Buildings were examined and water reservoirs were given special attention. The county secretary in charge, Ran Guangqi (冉广岐) decided to risk his political career and certain jail term to prepare the 470,000 residents of the county for the upcoming earthquake by ordering officials to educate the people as well as evacuate the local population to safer areas.[1] 
Twenty years later (in 1995), the United Nations concluded that the early warnings paid off, and that public administrators, scientists, and citizens working together increased the survival rate. There was a huge difference between a prepared versus an unprepared county.


So what can you do? The following will in no way be exhaustive, but it represent the first steps, things you can do now, or tomorrow morning. If you want to actually be prepared, and not just a deer casually walking out of the way of the approaching semi-truck, you will do further research. Everybody's emergency plan will be unique, so you have to take your own personal needs and resources into account, as well as those of your family and community.

Buy a couple whistles. Here is why, and what my recommendations are: Earthquakes and Whistles  Keep one on you as much as possible.  Three quick blows on the whistle means "please rescue me."

By your bed: shoes, socks, flashlight, whistle, dust mask, pry bar:
Tie a pair of sturdy shoes to your bedpost (or secure them in place some other way - velcro stuck to the wall?), stuff socks and an N95 dust mask in one shoe and a flashlight in the other. Adding a pry bar (crow bar) to this assortment could help you get out if your door is jammed after a quake. It very well could be. You will NEED shoes to walk around without cutting your feet up after a quake. Can't walk at all on cut up feet. Another good idea is to have a fresh change of clothes within reach of your bed. It would be preferable not to be naked or in your undies when you find your way out of your home.

With regard to shoes:
Try to avoid wearing sandals if you live in earthquake country. Definitely avoid wearing high heels or pumps. They are useless in a disaster. Really. One of the tragic sights of 9/11 were the hundreds of pairs of high heel shoes that littered the streets, because women simply couldn't run in them. What happened to those women? How do you walk around a disaster zone in high heels, or with no shoes at all?

The most essential nutrient! Store as much water at your home as reasonably possible. Rotate it every six months so you don't poison yourself with PCBs when you actually drink it. Store AT LEAST a week's worth of drinking water for every person and pet in your home. Will you need water for other things?

Store foods with long shelf lives. As much as you don't like to eat carbs, they are the best survival food because they provide quick energy and require little water and energy to digest. Superfoods are a good idea, too. Proteins require more water and energy to digest, so don't rely too heavily on them. A good combo for sustained energy that is quickly available is fat and sugar. Hence, things like trail mix are good survival food, though they may have shorter shelf lives. You will have to rotate your foods based on their shelf lives, so buy things you will actually eat and keep rotating them.

Keep flashlights accessible in all areas of your home and workplace.

Medical Kit:
A medical kit should contain lots of supplies for bandaging, antiseptics, and any necessary medications you or your dependents rely on. It should also include backups of corrective eyewear, if you use any. Be sure you know how to use the items in your medical kit.

Make a Go Kit (evacuation or getting home kit) and keep it in your car:
Put together a kit with things you will need to survive. This can be a very involved process, and I am not currently in a place to analyze the various recommendations made by individuals and organizations for you, but I do hope you take reasonable measures to make this happen. There are dozens of lists available online. My strongest recommendation is that you buy or compile the essentials first. Don't buy things you don't know how to use. Fear will debilitate your capacity to do new things in a disaster, so you will want to be thoroughly familiar with everything in your kit and how it is used.

Try to Keep Cash on You:
No electricity = no ATMs or credit card transactions. If you can make any transactions at all, they will have to be in cash.


Aside from having 'things' on hand, you will need to have some idea of what to do if disaster strikes. It's actually equally, if not more important than, having stuff on hand. How will you get in contact with your family when mobile signals are jammed? Where will you meet with them? What if that location is inaccessible? How will you get out of a city on fire when the roads are all destroyed and you can't use Google Maps on your iPhone? Where will you go? What is plan B?

Think things through and plan with others. The more the merrier.

Final Note: I CHING's advice for Shock or Shaking

If you know me, you know I am a self-professed student of I Ching. I value the life lessons its two-millennium-seasoned wisdom provides. Hexagram 51 (of the King Wen arrangement) is "shock," or "shaking." Two interpretations of it are excerpted at the top of this article.
“This movement is so violent that it arouses terror. It is symbolized by thunder, which bursts forth from the earth and by its shock causes fear and trembling." -Wilhelm-Baynes
Sounds like an earthquake to me. The text goes further to state:
"The shock of continuing thunder brings fear and trembling. The superior man is always filled with reverence at the manifestation of God; he sets his life in order and searches his heart, lest it harbor any secret opposition to the will of God."
Extracting the lesson from this; we have witnessed continuing thunder, or as the hexagram suggests, repeated shock; massive disaster after disaster. This repeated shock should cause us to revere, or at least be aware of, the enormous power of nature and our vulnerability to it. We are instructed to set our lives in order and search our hearts for "any secret opposition to the will of God." (Ultimately, in its entirety, nature is God. We may be powerful, but we are nonetheless subject to its will.) Is denial not a mechanism of secret (or subconscious) opposition to the will of (or reality of) nature? Has denial, triggered by the cognitive dissonance of stark and shocking reality contrasting a desire to believe we are safe caused us to bury our heads in the sand? Hexagram 51 suggests that one who can remain still through a disaster will be able, in the end, to laugh it off. Others will be traumatized. But one is only safe and still because one has gotten his or her life in order and taken seriously the repeated signals from nature.

"Shock"'s nuclear (internal/hidden) trigrams are mountain (stillness) and water (danger). This is stillness within danger. How does one achieve such stillness? Through preparation. When you put the nuclear trigrams together, you have the nuclear hexagram 39, or "obstacle." A nuclear hexagram provides insight into how to deal with an external situation personally, or internally.
"The hexagram pictures a dangerous abyss lying before us and a steep, inaccessible mountain rising behind us. We are surrounded by obstacles; at the same time, since the mountain has the attribute of keeping still, there is implicit a hint as to how we can extricate ourselves. The hexagram represents obstructions that appear in the course of time but that can and should be overcome. Therefore all the instruction given is directed to overcoming them." -Wilhelm-Baynes
"Here an individual is confronted by obstacles that cannot be overcome directly. In such a situation it is wise to pause in view of the danger and to retreat. However, this is merely a preparation for overcoming the obstructions. One must join forces with friends of like mind and put himself under the leadership of a man equal to the situation: then one will succeed in removing the obstacles." -Wilhelm-Baynes
The lessons here are thus:  You cannot stop an earthquake from happening, as they occur "in the course of time;" are unavoidable. You are surrounded, so you have to pause (retreat) and prepare. You are also advised to "join forces with friends of like mind" and to "put yourself under the leadership of a man equal to the situation." That means humble yourself, realize you don't know everything, and seek counsel from those wiser than you. In modern times that often means research. There are experts who have been trying to get your attention for a long time, and many resources available to you.

A Few Resources:

I really like the following books. Both of these characters are a little eccentric, but they are experts, and authoritative in their fields. Their books are relatively light hearted (actually, Lundin's books are LOL hilarious), and they will give you practical information to set forth on your own path to preparedness. They have different approaches, so it is good to seek balance between their two perspectives.

"When All Hell Breaks Loose; Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes"
"98.6º; the Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive"
by Cody Lundin

"Preparedness Now: 2nd Edition"
 by Aton Edwards
[My now-defunct business, Ready Me, is endorsed in the back of this book. Apologies to the author and publishers for not being able to keep it open.]


  1. thank you so much AAron. I asked you for this previously-and it is a super important piece for me to receive. i will be prepping this week so that I know i am in a good space for potential situations. You arent on fb anymore-and so i must tell you here now that i woke up this morning-24 hours after our talk about the earthquake to find out that ra the original Source of Human Design passed. I have been moving through alot today emotionally. He was a 51st gate sun ;)-shock and initiation were his trademarks of expression. (51.5 to be exact-) there is more i want to say-so i look forward to speaking directly. my heart feels quite torn right now-i was reeling from japan...and then this great personal loss. i am in deep shock. love u deeply. take good care and lets find each other soon. may we all learn what we can from this to be prepared and intelligent in crisis.....there is most certainly more coming.....<3

  2. babe this is so powerful-i am going to mention it on my wall to those who are ready to get their shit together. i keep coming back to it. love u!!

  3. Thanks, Akasha. :) Love you, too. Hope it is helpful.