Prior to Hurricane Ida, I had never evacuated for a storm. I grew up along the west coast of Florida, but any of the storms that were forecast to hit us, just grazed the edges of the state and we were left miraculously untouched. I am lucky enough to have family in the Florida panhandle who opened their doors to me, my sister, and my nephews. We stayed for a week after Ida. I was terrified of what we might find on our return to New Orleans. But I knew from living in Florida, that the Weather Channel was sensationalizing and exaggerating the actual destruction to the point of total decimation. And, for some reason, I felt guilty for leaving in the first place.
Weeks before the storm, I had tackled my first project as the new Graduate Assistant for UNO Press, which entailed reading the manuscript for a new book from Mahyar A. Amouzegar, The Hubris of an Empty Hand, a collection of short stories intertwined with one another through characters and the metaphysics of what makes us human.
I cycled through the guilt, the anxiety, and a cast of other raw emotions during that week away. I’d come home to power outages and fuel shortages. I struggled, but made a concerted effort to understand these feelings. I repeated to myself like a mantra, that it is a good thing to feel so deeply. That taking a hurricane personally and feeling emotionally stopped up with the frustration of the event is a feature of being the animal classified as human.
The Hubris of an Empty Hand highlights just that. “How could they evolve without true compassion…?” That as we move through life in all its extremes and nuances, we may be able to take a step back and believe, if just for a moment, that we can rise above, be bigger than the human condition, but that moment is fleeting. Perhaps these varying emotions were indeed designed, crafted even, by the higher powers and prescribed to us as a way to deal with life. I attempt to hold on to this while frantically running around town in search of bottled water and bagged ice.