Updated: Jul 17
The devastating 2nd Christchurch quake was far more violent than the September one 5 months earlier. It killed an estimated 200 people and destroyed thousands of homes beyond repair. It’s being touted as NZ’s worst disaster.
I survived them both… ...and found myself naked in my street again!
Last time it was during the September earthquake when I bolted out of bed, off the roof and into the neighbour’s garden,… nude as the day I was born. I was highly embarrassed. This time I didn’t give a toss who saw my bare bum. I was having a bath in the gutter. Yes, bollocks naked for anyone who cared to look, splashing water from the gutter over my face, private bits, everywhere. Cool, clear water had welled up from a crack in my street and I feverishly took advantage of this surprise fountain to rid myself of 5 days of grime. It felt good. Really good.
Clearly, my primordial self is taking over. I have further proof: After only a few days it feels completely normal to dig holes and crap in them, and to urinate/mark my territory around the back yard. I now live in a cave (called a tent) amidst piles of sand and rubble (used to be my house). I’m unshaven, my hands are grubby, I eat stuff that’s been on the ground for much longer than 10 seconds, and my daily routine is foraging, gathering and hunting in the rubble for my treasured belongings. I’ve developed a simple and easy routine: Maslow’s hierachy: Build shelter, collect water, gather food. We have a tribe, called neighbourhood. We meet daily at the village well (water tanker) and often help each other with tasks like gathering food and minding children. At night we meet to cook on a fire (BBQ) and exchange stories that will be passed on in folklore.
It feels great! I have a true sense of community in stark contrast to isolated nuclear family style of society we’ve had previous to this. I’ve met neighbours I didn’t know I had! I have promised to meet more regularly. I really care about them now!
On the other hand, there are those who fled the scene immediately. Loaded the car with wallets, passports, and kids. Some so badly affected, they’re leaving town, for good. Scared of the possible shocks, or devastated by the loss of loved ones and loss of valuables. I can understand this. I’ve lost my house, I’ve had 2 friends crushed by falling buildings, I’ve lost business as conference engagements cancel, and I’m very aware now of how insignificant I can be in the universe. Earthquakes give no warning, there is no predicting the size, timing or location. Here in Christchurch we used to be smug, thinking we were safe. No fault lines here like there are in Wellington, or the Southern Alps, or San Francisco. So, yes I now have a lurking fear. So why do I stay?
I find it useful to flip the coin over. These next few years will surely be exciting times. Those who are left in town are the resilient ones, the ones with energy, vision, perspective and those who are able to put the bad stuff in the past, looking instead to the future. These are the kind of people I like to hang with.
There is always opportunity in every crisis, and I see an abundance of opportunity here in Canterbury for the years to come. To name a few: As a city we have a fantastic opportunity to be a world-leading role model in earthquake proofing. We have a world-class research facility here that is the Civil Engineering Department of the University, and a full size laboratory that is our city. The majority of the citizens are now convinced that we must replace our dangerous old buildings and build a new heritage of sparkling, aesthetically stunning architecture. The time has come to let go of sentimentality. It costs us too much in lives and in money to fix them, and at the other end of the scale, we will always be afraid to enter those structures. Start with a clean new slate. What a fantastic opportunity for our architects to show-case their skills; marketing themselves to the world. Our council must implement a new building code to ensure that we have a creative, beautiful and functional personality to our city and that it is made robust yet pedestrian/cycle friendly. It’s an economically exciting future as money is poured into the area in the re-building phase.
I love the new perspective. As my friend Dr Richard Bolstad pointed out to me, “It’s as if the earthquake is a reminder to live more often in the present moment”.
Out of the fear will rise courage. Courage to accept that to survive these random acts of nature we must be more adaptable, to be able to move with the changes, to be less dependent on technology, and to take more personal responsibility. In other words, be resilient and intelligent.
In building a new city it’s important to predominantly focus on constructive things. It’s important to acknowledge the things that went wrong and learn from this. It’s important to allow a grieving stage for a finite time, a few weeks perhaps. The critical step is to then change the focus to where we do want to go.
It’s like mountain-biking down a fast track. Invariably there are obstacles, such as big rocks. If I focus on the rock… “oh if I hit that rock it’ll really hurt,.. I don’t want to hit that rock!” If I keep looking at this obstacle, I will surely hit it! Instead, for success, I acknowledge the obstacle and then move on to successfully navigate it by looking ahead instead at the path that I do want to take.
One excellent way to kick start this positive way of thinking is to start each day by listing 3 good things about the day or about life. I suggest writing these on a wall chart, perhaps using post-it notes, listing 3 new things each day. Get your family or workmates to add to the list too.
I also challenge you to identify some new opportunities for yourself, your family and your business.
Personally, I’ve got excellent, fresh new material for my motivational speaking on the topic of resilience. This augments superbly with my expertise in adventure resilience. I’m putting together a new marketing package. I am now marketing myself as an expert on resilience. I’ll need to practice what I preach in a business sense, which even more powerful for me.
Know anyone looking for room to rent? My house is destroyed and now I’m looking for flatmates to share another house I’m planning to rent in Cliff St, Redcliffs, Christchurch.
Until then, I’m enjoying camping out whilst the weather is good. I feel secure in my cave/tent. There’s no roof to collapse on me just a simple piece of canvas between me and the infinity that is the cosmos above me. Before I sleep I gaze skyward, contemplating the invisible forces that we cannot explain, let alone control.
I also contemplate the wisdom of my ancestors. My dear old Gran once told me “at my old age, sonny, I never buy green bananas, they might just be a bad investment”. I truly feel and understand that simple wisdom now. The quake and its after shocks have forced me to live in the present moment a lot more. I never know when the next one is coming. The impressive ease with which this quake tore my Redcliffs house to uninhabitable pieces has made me realize that I’m just a speck of dust when it comes to the infinity that is nature, the universe, God, or whatever you want to call it.
I marvel at the technological leaps and bounds that human kind has made in the recent decades of the technological revolution, and the clever gadgets made by clever boffins. It’s natural that I’m attracted to the sparkle, glitz and promises of an easier more enjoyable life. By buying the new widget, I can live tomorrow’s life today. I’ve raced to embrace life supported by electrical wizardry without much thought of what happens when someone trips over the plug. I am convinced we’ve become too dependant on technology. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready yet to toss my iPhone over my shoulder as I head off to find a cave. Right now, I’m beginning to really enjoy the simplicity of life, the peace and calm without emails, the internet and TV. My sanity returns, life makes more sense when I just let go, and focus on … well.. ….digging my hole.
Quote for the day "Courage can only exist in the presence of fear. Feel the fear and then transmute it into courage with powerful action." - Steve Gurney.
Steve Gurney is an adventurer, motivator and storyteller. He’s trained in developing mental excellence and resilience, teaching and speaking to businesses. www.stevegurney.co.nz