Friday, August 06, 2010

To catch the dragonfly when...

 Kengo Futagawa (59 at the time) was crossing the Kannon Bridge (1,600 meters from the hypocenter) by bicycle on his way to do fire prevention work. He jumped into the river, terribly burned. He returned home, but died on August 22, 1945. [src]

Crossing the Kannon Bridge - 8:15 a.m. 

A dragonfly flitted in front of me and stopped on a fence.
I stood up, took my cap in my hands,
and was about to catch the dragonfly when...
- A Survivor

Detail from a U.S. Air Force map of Hiroshima, pre-bombing, circles drawn at 1,000 foot intervals radiating out from ground zero, the site directly under the explosion. [src]

70,0000 - Nearly... with possibly...

Targeted for military reasons and for its terrain (flat for easier assessment of the aftermath), Hiroshima was home to approximately 250,000 people at the time of the bombing. The U.S. B-29 Superfortress bomber "Enola Gay" took off from Tinian Island very early on the morning of August 6th, carrying a single 4,000 kg (8,900 lb) uranium bomb codenamed "Little Boy". At 8:15 am, Little Boy was dropped from 9,400 m (31,000 ft) above the city, freefalling for 57 seconds while a complicated series of fuse triggers looked for a target height of 600 m (2,000 ft) above the ground. At the moment of detonation, a small explosive initiated a super-critical mass in 64 kg (141 lbs) of uranium. Of that 64 kg, only .7 kg (1.5 lbs) underwent fission, and of that mass, only 600 milligrams was converted into energy - an explosive energy that seared everything within a few miles, flattened the city below with a massive shockwave, set off a raging firestorm and bathed every living thing in deadly radiation. Nearly 70,000 people are believed to have been killed immediately, with possibly another 70,000 survivors dying of injuries and radiation exposure by 1950. @

Shortly after 8:15 am, August 5, 1945, looking back at the growing "mushroom" cloud above Hiroshima. When a portion of the uranium in the bomb underwent fission, and was transformed instantly into an energy of about 15 kilotons of TNT (about 6.3 × 1013 joules), heating a massive fireball to a temperature of 3,980 C (7,200 F). The superheated air and smoke rapidly rose through the atmosphere like a giant bubble, dragging a column of smoke up with it. By the time this photo was made, smoke had billowed 20,000 feet above Hiroshima while smoke from the burst of the first atomic bomb had spread over 10,000 feet on the target at the base of the column. [src]

In a Wild Hand

In the B-29 Enola Gay, the copilot, keeping a flight log, wrote: "There will be a short intermission while we bomb our target." Next, in a wild hand, he wrote "My God!" @

千羽鶴 - A Thousand Paper Cranes

Sadako Sasaki (January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) was a Japanese girl who was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, near her home by Misasa Bridge in Hiroshima, Japan.

At the time of the explosion Sadako was at home, about one mile from Ground Zero. By November 1954, chicken pox had developed on her neck and behind her ears. Then in January 1955, purple spots had started to form on her legs. Subsequently, she was diagnosed with leukemia, which her mother referred to as "an atom bomb disease." She was hospitalized on February 21, 1955, and given, at the most, a year to live.

On August 3, 1955, Sadako's best friend Chizuko Hamamoto came to the hospital to visit and cut a golden piece of paper into a square and folded it into a paper crane. At first Sadako didn't understand why Chizuko was doing this but then Chizuko retold the story about the paper cranes. Inspired by the crane, she started folding them herself, spurred on by the Japanese saying that one who folded 1,000 cranes was granted a wish. @


 Outshone the Sun

If I were asked to name the most important date in the history and prehistory of the human race, I would answer without hesitation, 6 August 1945. The reason is simple. From the dawn of consciousness until 6 August 1945, man had to live with the prospect of death as an individual; since that day when the first atomic bomb outshone the sun over Hiroshima, mankind as a while has had to live with the prospect of its extinction as a species.
- Arthur Koestler, Janus: A Summing Up

Arrogant like Jupiter

The effects were spectacular. Despite the very substantial burst height of 4,000 m (13,000 ft) the vast fireball reached down to the Earth, and swelled upward to nearly the height of the release plane. The blast pressure below the burst point was 300 PSI, six times the peak pressure experienced at Hiroshima. The flash of light was so bright that it was visible at a distance of 1,000 kilometers, despite cloudy skies. One participant in the test saw a bright flash through dark goggles and felt the effects of a thermal pulse even at a distance of 270 km. One cameraman recalled:

The clouds beneath the aircraft and in the distance were lit up by the powerful flash. The sea of light spread under the hatch and even clouds began to glow and became transparent. At that moment, our aircraft emerged from between two cloud layers and down below in the gap a huge bright orange ball was emerging. The ball was powerful and arrogant like Jupiter. Slowly and silently it crept upwards.... Having broken through the thick layer of clouds it kept growing. It seemed to suck the whole earth into it. The spectacle was fantastic, unreal, supernatural.

Another observer, farther away, described what he witnessed as:

... a powerful white flash over the horizon and after a long period of time he heard a remote, indistinct and heavy blow, as if the earth has been killed!  @

Although the body of Moto Mosoro (54 at the time) was not found, a part of her burned head was discovered on September 6, one month after the atomic bombing, at a place 1,500 meters from the hypocenter. This was taken from an eye socket. [src]

There is only the question: When will I be blown up?

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work - a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he relearns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

- William Faulkner's speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall 
in Stockholm, December 10, 1950 @

Melted Image of the Buddha [src]

གཅོད - A small heap of charred human bones

Alexandra David-Néel tells of a rite practiced in old Tibet called chöd, which she had witnessed and into which she herself had been partially initiated. It is a kind of mystery play with one actor only, the celebrant. It has been so devised to terrify the participants that one hears of men who have suddenly gone mad or died while engaged in its performance.

It is performed in a cemetery, or any wild site whose physical aspect awakens feelings of terror. The place is thought even more suitable if it is associated with a terrible legend or if a tragic event had actually occurred there recently.

The rite is designed to stir up the occult forces or conscious beings which may exist in such places, generated either by actual deeds or by the concentration of many people's thoughts of imagined events. During the performance of chöd, the performer may see himself suddenly surrounded by players from the occult worlds.

The one to perform chöd, the naljorpa, must first learn the ritual dance, his steps forming geometrical figures, and also turnings on one foot, stampings and leapings while keeping time with the liturgic recitation. He must learn to handle, according to rule, the bell, the dorjee, and the magic dagger (phurba), to beat rhythmically a small drum (damaru), and to blow a trumpet made of a human femur (kangling). The dancers are young ascetics emaciated by austerities, clad in ragged robes, their unwashed faces lit by hard, resolute, ecstatic eyes. They are preparing themselves for a perilous undertaking.

The ceremony begins with long mystic preliminaries during which the celebrant tramples down all passions and crucifies his selfishness. Then the celebrant blows his bone trumpet, calling the hungry demons to the feast he intends to lay before them. He envisions a female deity, who esoterically personifies his own will, and who springs from the top of his head and stands before him, sword in hand. With one stroke she cuts off the head of the naljorpa. Then, while troops of ghouls crowd around for the feast, the goddess severs his limbs, skins him, and rips open his belly. The bowels spill, the blood gushes forth, and the hideous guests bite and chew noisily, while the celebrant excites and urges them on with the liturgic words of unreserved surrender:

"For ages, in the course of renewed births I have borrowed from countless living beings--at the cost of their welfare and life-- food, clothing, all kinds of services to sustain my body, to keep it joyful in comfort and to defend it against death. Today, I pay my debt, offering for destruction this body which I have held so dear.

"I give my flesh to the hungry, my blood to the thirsty, my skin to clothe those who are naked, my bones as fuel to those who suffer from cold. I give my happiness to the unhappy ones. I give my breath to bring back the dying to life.

"Shame on me if I shrink from giving my self! Shame on you, wretched and demoniac beings, if you do not dare to prey upon it . . . "

The act of the "Mystery" is called "the red meal." If the initiate is one far advanced, it will be followed by "the black meal." The vision of the demoniacal banquet vanishes, the laughter and cries of the ghouls die away. Utter loneliness in a gloomy landscape succeeds the weird orgy, and the exaltation aroused in the naljorpa by his dramatic sacrifice subsides.

Now he visualizes himself having become a small heap of charred human bones that lie on a lake of black mud-- the mud of misery, of moral defilement, and of harmful deeds to which he has cooperated during the course of numberless lives whose origin is lost in the night of time. He must realize that the very idea of sacrifice is but an illusion, an offshoot of blind, groundless pride. In fact, he has nothing to give away, because he is nothing. These useless bones, symbolizing the destruction of his phantom "I," may sink into the muddy lake; it will not matter.

That silent renunciation of the ascetic who realizes that he holds nothing that can be renounced, and who utterly relinquishes the elation springing from the idea of sacrifice, closes the rite.
- From The Dreadful Mystic Banquet by Alphonso Lingis @

The practitioner works entirely with their own mind, visualizing the offering, and—by practicing in lonely and dreaded places, like cemeteries—works to overcome all fear. [src]

"You appear to know Chöd, Jetsumma. Do you really? he inquired calmly.

"Yes," I said, "I have practiced it too."

He did not reply.

After a while, as the lama remained silent, and seemed to have forgotten my presence, I tried again to appeal to his pity.

"Rimpoche," I said, "I warn you seriously. I have some medical knowledge; your disciple may gravely injure his health and be driven to madness by the terror he experiences. He really appeared to feel himself being eaten alive."

"No doubt he is," answered the lama with the same calm, "but he does not understand that he himself is the eater. Maybe he will learn it later on...."

- Magic and Mystery in Tibet, Alexandra David-Néel. Quoted in Transgressive Compassion: The Role of Fear, Horror and the Threat of Death in Ultimate Transformation by Lucy Annette Jones [pdf]

Kangling is a tantric Buddhist ritual instrument used by practitioners of Chöd.
Made from a human femur, this kangling or thigh bone trumpet from Tibet has heavily carved Silver metal covering the epicondyle end which serves as the sounding end of the horn. This particular Kangling is made from a human femur and also has inlaid coral and turquoise stones. [src]

A small fire from the world's first nuclear bombing

Takudou Yamamoto feels a family duty to hand down a message against the tragedy of war. He is the keeper of a legendary flame which his late father lit after the Hiroshima nuclear attack.

Tatsuo Yamamoto, a wartime soldier, carefully preserved a small fire from the world's first nuclear bombing -- doing so in complete silence until the late 1960s when local media first reported his unusual story.

He died four years ago but the "nuclear bomb flame" is still alight under a glass shield at a peace monument on a park looking out on his secluded village of Hoshino, some 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Hiroshima.

"Yes, it's a symbol. A symbol for peace," said Takudou Yamamoto, 58, a monk and ceramic artist and Tatsuo's second son. @

A flame that has been burning continuously since the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. [src]

Charles "Bonesy" Jones was born on 6 August 1945.
I am the keeper of his flame.
His spirit eats away at my flesh
In every instant of every day.