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I normally keep non-baseball off-topic stuff confined to my personal Facebook page nowadays. Minor League Ball is for minor league baseball and related major league topics, with an occasional shipblog post perhaps, but you get the drift: this is where people come to escape and enjoy. If you don't want to read anything but baseball stuff, then don't look under the fold on this one.

If you are anything like me, the ongoing disaster in Japan is consuming a lot of your attention. I have some friends and business contacts there, and while everyone I know is OK physically, the stress is palpable from half a world away. The impact of the earthquake and resultant tsunami itself is catastrophic and stretches the boundaries of normal imagination: thriving cities levelled, entire towns washed away, tens-of-thousands dead, incalcuable physical, personal, and emotional suffering for the survivors. Then add on top of this the malfunctioning nuclear reactors, and you have one of the greatest disasters in human history.

Two particular themes come to mind for me this afternoon.

1) The bravery of the engineers and technicians at the reactor sites, right now fighting to prevent the worst from happening, at tremendous and possibly suicidal risk to their health if reports coming out about the radiation levels at the reactors are true. It reminds me of the FDNY and NYPD first-responders on 9/11, or the Soviet firefighters and technicians who gave their lives containing Chernobyl. This is mankind at our best.

2) The reminder of how small and vulnerable humanity really is in the face of the Universe. If you think about it, the entire disaster is a microcism of Man vs. Nature. Nuclear power generation is perhaps mankind's greatest attempt to harness the Laws of Nature for his own benefit, yet that very Nature, through the earthquake and tsunami, proves in the end to be superior to our efforts. Look at the easy way natural forces can brush away our most sophisticated infrastructure and our best engineering, exposing us naked to the power of the universe, in both a metaphoric sense and a literal one.

It is easy to come away from these thoughts with a sense of utter futility.

Every human life comes with a dose of misery, whether through a natural disaster, a man-made folly, or just random chance. Some of us are luckier than others and face easier trials, but in every life a trial will come in some form or another: an economic calamity, a sickness, an accident, a disabled child. Death will touch us all in some way. Often these trials seem without meaning or any hope of a positive resolution.

Yet when my thoughts focus too much on Point Two, I go back to Point One: mankind at his BEST, mankind showing courage in the face of fear and devastation and pain and loss. Mankind helping each other. In the end, I think that's all we can do: help each other, reduce each other's suffering in any way we can, and remembering each day that we really ARE all in this together, Japanese, American, Haitian, Libyan, Iraqi, Egyptian, Israeli, Palestinian, Russian, German, British, Indonesian, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani...all human, all just as vulnerable to pain and suffering as any other human, and also just as capable of acts of courage and love.

Do something good today.