Just when you thought the world couldn’t get more messed up, insane, F’d up, call it what you will, we find there are children being separated from their parents and placed in cages. I’m angry, I’m exhausted by it all. And I know there are things we can do, even those of us not in the US.
If you’re like me, and maybe you’re not, you’re taking most of this in through the written word. I can’t bear to listen to the audio of the children in these hideous camps. So I’m scrolling through my Twitter feed and Facebook, and getting the news that way. And interspersed with the news of the day, which is copious, are posts about art, and photos of outings and family, We Rate Dogs, authors promoting their books, and flowers. And really, thank god for that, because a steady diet of the news would be terrifying and reduce most of us to tears and headaches and anxiety and various other debilitating states. Also, that’s just how life is: we’re taking in so many different things at once and processing them the best we can. It’s difficult, though, isn’t it? On the one hand, here’s a great recipe for potato salad, and look, next up is T-p saying something false and absurd defying all reason.
I realize it’s not going to change the world, but I’m trying to read more and surf less, at least try not to read the same piece of news multiple times. Once is enough. It won’t change the world, but it’s going to help me move through it. In On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder says:
“Staring at screens is perhaps unavoidable, but the two-dimensional world makes little sense unless we can draw upon a mental armory that we have developed somewhere else. When we repeat the same words and phrases that appear in the daily media, we accept the absence of a larger framework. To have such a framework requires more concepts, and having more concepts requires reading. So get the screens out of your room and surround yourself with books.”
I’ve been reading the brilliant Anne Boyer’s A Handbook for Disappointed Fate. In her essay titled, “Take Up and Read” she says:
“Books ruined my life, and I love them.”
She talks about reading in the bathtub which might remind you of a scene in Rumi and the Red Handbag....
She says, that “I discovered, as well, that a person who is reading – particularly if they are a woman – is most often a person neglecting someone or something....”
What we need, I think, is more reading, more neglecting. We need our own words. We need an understanding of concepts and words. We need stories, so many stories. We need to understand each other, we need compassion. Boyer’s book begins with an essay titled, “No.”
“History is full of people who just didn’t. They said no thank you, turned away, escaped to the desert, lived in barrels, burned down their own houses, killed their rapists, pushed away dinner, meditated into the light.”
There is a lot to be said for refusal.