It took me a while to figure out what to write in this log today. Once again, the daily news is filled with sucker punches of devastating information. How, I thought, can I write about writing, given everything else that’s going on in the world?
And then I remembered: I write about writing because I choose to fan the flames of meaning and connection and compassion and perspective. Other peoples’ words have taught me how to be better than just myself; have given me the perspective to know that violence and fear and mass destruction are as old as the hills (or bear baiting or crusades or plagues or wars or slavery or just plain shitty behavior); and have reminded me that when push comes to shove, sadness has nothing on miracles.
Writing and its related activities – reading; art; teaching; learning; experiencing the world with a joyous, fearless insistence on seeing and loving it for what it is — also remind me that where we put out attention is in lock step with what we fuel. If, for example, we disappear into the dark tunnel of reactive social media posts, we add more fuel to the terror, reactivity, and fear than is absolutely necessary. And while it is absolutely necessary to see and feel that terror, reactivity, and fear – and ride out the sorrow, frustration, and occasional despair that they inspire – it is equally critical that we do not allow them to bleed into the incredible fortune we are capable of inspiring and spreading. We cannot lose sight of the fact that while the buffoonery of our president and outbursts of mass violence feel unprecedented, the volume of voices that are advocating social tolerance are truly unprecedented, as is our ability to heal and unite with medicine and technology, as is the intelligent compassion arising around on how we can minimize damage to our environment, as are the three children I live with who are even brighter, funnier, smarter, and infused with more global compassion than all the generations that have come before them – just as yours are. And above all, we cannot lose sight of the fact that in every single case, at every single time in human history, real progress has always inspired the worst kinds of backlash. When things hatch, predators will circle – and frequently dive.
So while I, too, am tempted to fall victim to the heaviness in my heart, I know it’s never been more important, in my lifetime, to turn my energy toward fueling those things I believe in. You’ll have to forgive (or embrace) the light reference, but just as the eternally wise Theodore Suess Geisel showed us in his books, when chaos comes, you can either a) join the mob; b) beat your own drum and tune everything out and develop terrible hair, or c) know that even your insignificant, tiny voice can be the one that, when joined with the others, makes that collective, giant yalp of affirmative goodness finally heard by the deafest of ears.
Photograph: Javier Trueba, “Cave of the Hands, Argentina”