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Japanese Tsunami: I’m Gonna Build Me an Ark

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The reaction to the earthquake in Japan and the horrific tsunami it spawned has been swift and, as should be expected, covered widely by the media. It was quite easy last evening to find reports on television about the story, even on small local stations. Turning to the PC, I got more of the same. It’s a story that is necessary and compelling to report, and it makes us all worry a bit when we think of the power of nature. Sometimes, I think we take that for granted.

This morning as I made my usual quick trip to the supermarket, I was in the dairy aisle getting milk and juice. This is when I overheard two guys who had brought in handtrucks filled with new cartons of milk to replenish the supply. They were talking about the tsunami. “You see that wave in Japan washing everything away, man?”

The other guy stopped puitting milk on the shelf, tipped back his cap, and sighed, “Yeah, I’m gonna build me an ark.”

They started laughing and went back to their work, but I started thinking about it. We take for granted how the milk will always be on the shelf, as well as everything else we need. We turn on the taps and the water comes out clean to drink. I go home, turn on my computer, and I can connect to the world. It’s all so easy, so simple, and yet so frighteningly fragile, as this disaster in Japan clearly demonstrates.

I took down the old trusty Bible from my shelf and turned to Genesis. Noah must have been a great guy because he got a warning. He went out to build an ark because, according to the story, God was ready to smite the people and the earth but Noah had found “favor” with the Lord. Lucky guy, huh?


In Genesis 6:15 God gave Noah specific instructions: “This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.” The “cubit” was an ancient measurement, and since Noah couldn’t rush out to Home Depot to get the wood measured and cut for him, he had to use the basic length of a cord that covered the distance between his elbow to the end of his middle finger, meaning a cubit changed with each person depending on his arm length. I then looked up cubit and the Merriam-Webster definition indicated that it equals about 18 inches in length.

I figured out that Noah’s boat would be much too big for my family and me. Even if we took the dog, we would need a much smaller size. Maybe around 150 cubits by 25 cubit by 25 cubits. Unlike Noah, I could go down to Home Depot, get all my wood, use my power tools, and – wait a minute. What am I doing? Noah had found favor with the Lord. He had been told in advance, so there was a plan for him. When it was all over his boat came to rest and life went on for him and his family because that was what God wanted.

We might not be so lucky, right? In fact, in a flood that devastating, the world as we know it would be gone. There would be no more apps for my iPhone; hey, it wouldn’t even work. There would be no store with stocked milk, no gas for the car (well, that would be washed away at this point), no daily newspaper or grande cappucino to drink with it. We would just have each other and have to start over from scratch.

I realized why Noah brought all those animals. They were not just being saved to keep each species going; they would also be a food source. The cows gave milk; the chickens gave eggs, and so on. Yes, I would have to build the ark to the original specifications and get animals – lots of them. Neighborhood cats and dogs, maybe that squirrel that destroys our pumpkins every Halloween, that raccoon I see up near the train tracks, and so on. I know this is a poor lot of creatures to take, but short of raiding the Bronx Zoo before the flood comes, what am I to do?

Maybe nothing. I sat here staring out the window and figured I would have to take what God has wrought just like everyone else. He didn’t warn me or anyone in my family. I wouldn’t be favored and probably wouldn’t survive. It might be worse to be the only people on a ruined planet, fending for ourselves after all had been swamped and drowned. Yeah, I guess that would be the way it was meant to be.

Later in the morning I went out to the garage to get something. Stacked against the wall was all the wood I had bought last year to build a new shed but never got around to it. I forgot I had bought it. I picked up my tape measure from the workbench and measured my elbow to the tip of my middle finger. It was almost nineteen inches. I picked up my hammer, stared at the wood, and touched it with my hand. “Three hundred cubits, by fifty cubits, by thirty cubits.” Hmm.

Photo credits:

Map – CBS News.com
Flood – Guardian.co.uk

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Hi Victor,

    You may want to look up another book in your trusty Bible – the Book of Zechariah. According to this prophet, a huge earthquake will shake Jerusalem, one that would split the Mount of Olives into two, with a huge geyser creating a stream east to the Jordan, and a stream west to the Mediterranean. It talks of the flattening of the mountains of Jerusalem north to the “Gate of Binyamin”, about 10 miles to the north. Now, Victor, imagine the nature of the earthquake and the nature of the movements of the earth that would flatten the mountains north of Jerusalem to be a plain.

    If a 9.0 earthquake hit near Malta, a tsunami similar to that which struck the Pacific would hit the Mediterranean. Such a tsunami would destroy Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and all the towns on the sunny coast of our country and the water would like flow inland about 10 miles.

    And then consider, that Zechariah was just a “local weatherman”, talking about my neck of the woods. What about Noo Yawk? You guys do have prophets of sorts, the Hopi Indians and Edgar Cayce.

    The Hopi Indians have some pretty nasty prophecies for you guys….

    Go look them up.

    Shavú’a tov!