Here we go again… as we work through another chapter of the interactive post-apocalyptic novel that is our current reality, I’m once again at a point of trying to come to terms with my own thoughts and feelings about the current situation. In part, this is my way of making sense of it, but I hope perhaps it speaks to some of you as well.
Delving into current headlines is a fresh nightmare with each passing week:
- The earth is burning as we watch corporations strip it to the ground for profit
- Children and innocents are dying of gun violence, being locked in cages, and turned away as they flee their homes in an effort to save their families
- We’ve got a violent perversion of masculinity harming men and women both
- Democracy is being undermined before our very eyes
- Racism and prejudice have found fresh energy
- Nearly dead diseases are back and taking lives
- Women, children, people of color–so many groups are being threatened in a multitude of ways
- The list goes on
And still, still we find ourselves having to debate things that should be commonly accepted, still we find ourselves having to explain what human decency looks like.
First of all, if you’re not invested in these things, if you still question their severity, please, go research them. Yes, there are legitimate, complicated conversations to be had about certain issues–how best to address them, what the path forward should look like. But there are glaring truths staring us in the face, and this is not the time for apathy or ignorance or equivocation.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s exhausting at times. Yes, it may mean taking a long, hard look at our own lives and doing serious business with things we’d rather not consider. There are people right now who don’t have the luxury of changing the channel and pretending everything is alright.
Our time is coming. These things affect us all, and we cannot afford to look away.
For my part, my Christian faith defines so much of how I view the world–it offers comfort for today and hope for the future. It matters. But faith doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and faith that isn’t lived out doesn’t do anything to change the world. It has no impact. And now, as much as ever, is the time to have an impact.
Which brings me to the question that circles my brain every time some new headline drops, leaving us shaken, leaving us divided–what do we do? What do I do? How do I think about this? How do I confront something so pervasive, so forceful?
As so much goes wrong, as so many people are hurting, there are days it feels overwhelming. I wonder what I can possibly do to change things that are so much larger than me. What value do escapist pieces of entertainment and silly diversions hold as world-shaking concerns weigh down on all of us? What place does writing have in a world like this?
I’m a writer, and I love doing it, but there are moments when making up stories feels like such a small contribution in the grand scheme of all that’s going on.
Now, permit me a brief tangent. I am a fan of Marvel’s character Hawkeye–movie and comics version both. At a glance, he’s a seemingly average guy running alongside a host of powerful heroes, and in the second Avengers movie, as everything goes from bad to worse, we get this line from him:
“The city is flying. We’re fighting an army of robots and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense. But I’m going back out there, because it’s my job.”
On the surface, it’s a passing self-referential joke in the midst of a much larger story. But it’s also perfectly true. In a world gone mad, he takes what he can offer and gives everything he has to the fight, protecting anyone he can. It doesn’t matter if it all makes perfect sense. It’s the trying that matters. And in the end, he does make a difference.
And this is the thing I’m trying to remember right now. It’s not about fixing everything. It’s about showing up. It’s about giving what we can.
Vote with conscience, educate yourself, educate others, fact-check, give money or time or encouragement, make your voice heard, amplify the voices of those who are being silenced, listen to what people are saying, stand up to hate, be good to each other. Give what you can and don’t judge yourself that you can’t give more.
One person isn’t going to fix everything–but a person, plus a person, plus a person gains momentum. One change after another can see things begin to shift.
In the midst of big problems, changing the life of even a single person has real value. A smile, a meal for someone without a home, a warm welcome to the person who feels like they don’t belong–these things are not only worthwhile, but vital. These are the things that make a difference.
So here I am, trying to figure out how to live these ideas in the day to day. And as I ask myself these questions, I’m writing a novel about dragons. And there are days when I remind myself that this matters too.
I’ve already said a lot about the power of stories, on this site and elsewhere–and there are others who have said it more eloquently than me–so I’ll keep this brief.
- Stories encourage empathy
- Stories allow us to understand experiences far beyond our own
- Stories broaden our minds and our hearts
- Stories with horror can give voice to our fears, helping us process the darkness we cannot find words for
- Stories with romance allow us to dream, to believe in love and the possibility of happily ever after
- Stories can be political or social, encouraging or biting
- Stories absolutely do shape worldviews–reinforcing or challenging the societies we live in–defining the way we exist within the world
- And along with all of this, stories let us escape–for even in the midst of so many important issues, we need a chance to pull back, if only for a while. We must be able to dream, to laugh, to fall in love, to go on adventures–to slay monsters and believe in heroes–to see bright and beautiful things and find the magic in everyday life
Stories, art–these things are not small, they are not indulgences, they are not simply escape–they are life and hope, memory and understanding. Creation and imagination are part of what it means to be human.
And so, this is where I find myself tonight–it is time to care. We cannot look away. We cannot ignore the damage and hurt being inflicted around us. You, me–we cannot fix it all. But we can do our part, inviting others alongside us whenever possible.
Why do we care so much about the world? Why do some of us get so loud, so passionate about these issues? To borrow a line from another Marvel character:
“Why would you want to save the galaxy?”
“Because I’m one of the idiots who lives in it!”
But it’s more than that. Beyond the basics of self preservation, at the core of all the other arguments–caring about the environment, caring about other people, is the right thing to do. It’s as simple–and as complicated–as that.
We are better together. We are better when we act out of love–rather than fear or anger or ignorance–and we need not lose any power for doing so. So get involved–whatever that looks like for you. Go do your part.
I’m far from perfect–but I’m trying. And that’s where it starts.
But also, please, take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Smile. Sing a song. Tell a story. Paint a picture. Dance. Laugh. Go for a walk. Watch a movie. Tell a stupid joke. Enjoy life. Find joy in the little things. We cannot allow what is wrong to overwhelm what is right. We cannot lose sight of the things that ignite happiness inside us, even if those things are silly, even if they’re only for us and no one else.
The things that make you happy matter. And if sharing them with others spreads the happiness, then there is worth in that as well.
There is so much around us that is right–beauty, friendship, love, humanity. We need to see both sides–light and dark–and not embrace one while ignoring the other.
It’s easy to get caught up in the things that are going wrong. As we do our best to deal with the problems we find ourselves facing–whether it all makes sense, whether we have it all figured out–even if it’s just one small step at a time, let’s not lose sight of the things that make it all worthwhile.
Keep smiling. Keep chasing your passions and finding joy in the everyday. Keep being you. We need you. And tomorrow is a brand new day.