It Cannot Be Helped

Wendy Maruyama: Watertower 2

This morning I got to listen to a coworker talk about the World War II Japanese-American Internment Camps in Arkansas. It’s such a complex topic, you could spend days on it. The focus of this particular talk was about the art children created in the camps. It was a coping mechanism for so many of them.

Shameless plug: In February, the Arkansas Arts Center (where I work) will host the exhibition Wendy Maruyama: The Tag Project / Executive Order 9066. This will feature art from and about the camps. I suspect this will be quite moving.

While discussing the political, social, military and cultural situations that led to the decision to intern American citizens, a little nugget surfaced. For many Japanese-Americans, the way to maintain dignity during this time was to apply the philosophy of “Shikata ga nai,” which means “It cannot be helped.” She described it as similar to the serenity prayer many of us are familiar with, “Lord, help me accept the things I cannot change…”

I absolutely suck at that. I rage against the machine. I pitch fits and throw tantrums and scream at the television. But it’s futile. I cannot change some things. My friends are going to get sick if I like it or not. Unwelcome guests are going to show up in people’s lives and cause fear. They call them car *accidents* because they’re no one’s fault. It cannot be helped.

What I can do is comfort those around me. I can make art. I can bake cookies and send cards. I can make the space of ground that I am responsible for a little bit better. I can spread peace and joy where there is a lack of both. Sometimes, in my sick twisted way, I’ve even been known to spread some laughter. Because, God willing, I’ll have the strength to change the things I can.


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One response to “It Cannot Be Helped

  1. Very interested to see that! Will have to remember to come next year!