110289025

Adam Frank responds to a commenter who wrote of the earthquake, "Somehow the science of it all has suddenly lost its appeal":

In those moments, when we are numb with the immediacy of great suffering, explanations can become clay on the tongue. In that shattered place, our other human talents often find their place. In poem or paean, in music or metaphor, in silent homage to whatever powers make sense to the heart in that moment, we may (or may not) find our way.

What those moments teach is that all existence is, for us, provisional. They show that we are as much creatures of experienced feeling as we are of rational thinking. They show us the full range of what it means to be human, all too human, in a world alive with tremendous power, unspeakable beauty and, sometimes, shattering terror.

(Photo: A religious statue placed by local residents stands among the rubble in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture on March 17, 2011 after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. By Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images.)

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.