The super-storm Sandy hit my area on Monday evening (Oct 29, 2012). I am not going to discuss the devastation in my area. I cannot express the frustration and suffering experienced by the people of New Jersey and New York adequately. In my case, there was no property damage but we had no electricity therefore no-heat for 9 days. We stayed in the apartment the first 2 nights after the storm but it was too cold. Then we were very lucky to find a hotel room for the next 4 nights. We returned to the apartment on Sunday but again it was just too cold. We then stayed with friends for 2 nights. Finally the power came back to our building on Wednesday after 9 days. Today (November 10, 2012), after nearly two weeks, thousands of people are still without electricity! Temperature has been a factor. Cold temperatures are the main reason for the frustration experienced by the people.
Blackouts are common in the developing countries. My home country Turkey has made great progress in this regard but when I was a child we experienced blackouts very often. Even then I was caught unprepared this time. Physically I was ok but psychologically I could not accept the fact that the most developed country in the world was no better than a developing country. Why did I have such high expectations of America? Nature is surely more powerful than the most powerful country in the world!
I also realized that the darkness combined with cold can be very unsettling. I thought about our ancestors going back thousands of years. How did they survive in the cold darkness?
The darkness also reminded me the stories my father was telling me about the underground coal mines. My father was a coal mining engineer. He worked in the deep underground coal mines for 25 years. He used to talk about the pitch-darkness of the underground tunnels. When I was a teenager he took me to the coal mines few times and I experienced that total darkness in the absence of any lights. It was not cold darkness; on the contrary, it was hot darkness. It was quite warm in those tunnels 1 thousand feet below the Earth’s surface.
Coal miners use battery powered lights of course but they also use special lamps. They are known as Davy lamps. In those days, my father and many others preferred the Davy lamps to the battery powered ones because the Davy lamp would serve double purpose. It would provide light and also indicate the presence of grisu gas (an explosive mix of methane and air) which is common in the coal mines.
My father died in 2008. One of his precious possessions was his personal Davy lamp. He gave it to me before he died. I see it as a symbol of enlightenment. Going into the darkness of the underground coal mines and coming out after few hours and looking at the bright sun is a special experience. You feel the contrast – the contrast between the darkness and the light. You feel it in your cells and you feel it in your heart. Enlightenment must be such an experience.