This week our mourning nation can take some comfort from knowing that though Christchurch has been brought to its knees, 40 nations have sent aid, and nearly 1000 overseas rescuers have rushed to assist.

We are not the planet's last bus stop. The world watches over us.

This helps, but it's hard not to pity New Zealand as the aftershocks continue and we wait for loved ones to be rescued alive.

On Wednesday the dry gale-force winds came howling through, as they have all summer, enough to drive a man insane. Is there no respite from nature's cruelty?

Evidently not, as a quake hit Wellington and we realised depleting the Earthquake Commission's coffers was madness. What's around the corner? Life, as Thomas Hobbes wrote, is brutal and short.

But Hobbes' Leviathan was profoundly depressing, and we have no choice but to rebuild Christchurch. The whole country must help pay, regardless of financial circumstances.

Labour, the Greens and Peter Dunne accused the Government of politicking when Bill English refused to rule out spending cuts to interest-free student loans, or Working For Families. But Labour and the Greens advocated an earthquake tax for the wealthy - those earning over $50,000.

Either you care and want to help, or you don't. No donation is too small. Some of us can give sums of four figures or more (bless you, Owen Glenn), but just foregoing a cigarette or cappuccino and donating the money instead would warm an earthquake victim's heart.

Anyway, as right-wing blogger Cactus Kate wrote, ultimately capitalism will rebuild Christchurch.

Cash can't cure the grief, but it takes care of essential services so people can mourn in some sort of dignity. Because Christchurch - the country too - is awash with deep distress. In that split second between asleep and awake, the bereaved will remember why they're so desolate and struggle to meet the day.

Loss hits like a rogue wave, which, if you're not a strong swimmer, can drag you down gulping with sobs, drowning in a sea of tears.

Those with faith have a life-raft to help them through, but what about others?

Years ago I took comfort from David Bodanis' biography about Einstein's famous equation, E = MC2.

To paraphrase: E, the energy in the world, changes its form all the time, but never diminishes or increases in amount. So energy might be waterfalls, All Blacks, or fire engines hosing buildings, but it will never be one millionth part less than what it was when the Earth was created.

M stands for mass, or matter, and that too never alters in terms of total weight. Matter never ceases to exist, so if a city were to be weighed, then broken by earthquake and its buildings burned, if all the smoke, ash, dust and broken buildings were collected and weighed, there would be no change in the weight at all.

So Einstein learned that energy and mass each were magically balanced worlds, and that each was guaranteed in some unfathomable way to keep its total quantity unchanged, even though the forms in which they appeared could vary tremendously.

Einstein, however, went further, and connected the two realms by looking at C (Celeritas) in the equation - the speed of light.

He discovered you can never see a stationary light beam, it is always moving forward and you can never catch up to it. Therefore, nothing moves faster than the speed of light.

Suppose a space shuttle pilot did pour all his energy into catching up with the speed of light. He'd fail, but his energy must go somewhere - it gets squeezed into mass, or matter, and viewed from outside, the solid mass of the shuttle starts to grow and the shuttle swells.

So mass can become energy, and energy mass, and the speed of light, squared, is the link.

I think you can see where this is going.

The theory of relativity - energy pouring into a moving object creates mass - can be reversed. Mass never disappears, it becomes energy.

So it is with people. Their energy pours out, becomes matter, and eventually goes on to become energy in, I like to think, someone else.

Nobody ever really dies.