December 29, 2004

On Moving On

I looked at some pictures from the tsunami disaster and it depressed the shit out of me, as it should have. A bruised woman who’s missing her 13-year-old son…I guess it’s good to meditate on other people’s suffering, makes you human. Though I could never be empathetic because I don’t know what the hell it is like. The closest I could come is living through September 11 in New York City. Seeing the planes hit, the burnt, artificial smell in the air, the fear that something else could happen, running down from 23rd street thinking my dog was suffocating in the dust, which was ridiculous really because we lived far enough away. My daughter’s birth was the most emotionally intense experience of my life--filled with powerful fear and worry, but that ended happily, with powerful joy. Her birth was the most alive I’d ever felt, the most human.

So I’ve got nothing to possibly compare. People are suffering horribly right now, and I’m sitting warm at a desk, writing a BLOG. Hopefully it’s wrong to feel petty. There’s a wise quote somewhere about focusing on the good things. I can’t help it, but the tragedy does seem far away, until I see another picture. I care but I’m not crippled by it. Human beings have a terrible capacity to adapt to tragedy. It’s probably going to get worse, as the population grows, and we develop new, creative ways of killing each other off. In my paranoid moments, I feel like we’re being prepared for something. And then I go back to my job. I still want to finish the story I’m writing, I still want to sell it somewhere. I want to try to get it into a longshot like "The New Yorker" which I’ve spouted against but that’s only because I hate what I can’t have. I’d like to jumpstart my writing career. I still feel like I’m always suffering in some way, which really is crippling. Meanwhile, people are suffering in much worse ways, somewhere, maybe even down the block. Dumb, brutal world we live in. This tragedy seems different, like the Holocaust or September 11--even if it’s an act of nature, people are still powerless and hurt. I don’t know what to do about it exactly. A downer post, but I got it out.


Spiral Stairs said...

The coverage has indeed been brutal. The NYT had a photo above the fold yesterday that literally made me sick. I am quite sure they will get letters about that one.

I, too, lived in NYC on September 11, and this does feel like it -- but without the messy, unpleasant "personal involvement." The Red Cross message on the front page is an eerie 9/11 reminder to me.

My emotion about the tsunami is currently being channeled into ever-deepening anger at our president, who saw fit to emerge from his hearth-room vacation only after repeated calls of "What the fuck is he doing?" And he saw fit to commit more than a pittance to the relief effort only after repeated calls of "What the fuck is he doing with our money?" And it's still a pittance, only a little bit less pittanceful.

After 9/11, my anger had more productive channels. Like hating people outside our country. This time, the only people to hate are right here.

Henry Baum said...

Thanks a lot for the thoughts, Spiral. Yes.

xo. war. said...

a while ago, when i was too depressed to even sleep, my friends, good friends, kept telling me; "you don't have it as bad as the rest of the world. people are starving, hungry, dying. all that is wrong with you is you can't make yourself happy." sadly, this quote has stuck by me all these years. it didn't help. i can't really help every last person on earth with the problems their fathers & gradfathers had all experienced, we all live to die, in certain circumstances. & sadly, i regret not caring as much as others seem to. but i believe i can change my life, not thousands of others, so i have a tiny excuse, to be selfish.


sorry i ramble.

Henry Baum said...

Well said, xo.

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