I sit down and I write about my life- my world. I ramble on and on about daily episodes, transient sentiments, long-ago memories and future uncertainties. Occasionally, I touch on something “valid” that strikes a chord with a reader here, or a reader there- and then realize, again, that it’s the small stuff that connects us- i.e. a new song, the photo of a foreign city or a clever quote. Hence, I continue to write about my woes, about the good times and about the stupid bits and pieces that really don't matter in the grand scheme of things.
But recently, more frequently than not, global catastrophes are taking place and I choose not to write about them. This doesn't mean I am not thinking about them- the honest answer (and excuse) is that I just feel so helpless, so powerless- and I suppose that even mentioning the current international misfortunes and tragedies would be a waste of everyone’s time. Nothing I could say would shed light on the situation- or create any comfort for those suffering. It’s all being covered…and will go down in history books- to be studied by future generations of scientists and sociologists, anthropologists and geographers. But what about us- here and now? How are we supposed to take this?
I seem to be overwhelmed by bad news, fears and sorrow. I sit down to write about my latest adventure and all I think about is how selfish I am. How can I be enjoying myself when the planet is falling apart? In the apt words of Stephen Tyler, “There’s something wrong with the world today, and I don't know what it is.”
When various birds and fish started suddenly dying- and multiple countries began publishing puzzling statistics- the nihilists were arriving in droves with Armageddon premonitions, and I continued to write about cooking pumpkins. When an earthquake hit China last April, I made a reading list. When the volcano erupted in Iceland I wrote about socks. And when the capital city of Haiti was struck by a 7.0 earthquake, I droned on and on about falafel, cheese and in-flight magazines. Maybe I was doing the right thing, maybe not. One certainty is that the world will go on, it always goes on- humanity always recovers.
At night, I lay awake in bed, with images of that day’s newscasts scrolling through my mind- wondering about Japan- the death tolls, the devastation, the nuclear reactors and associated risks. And yes, Japan will recover too. But what about the unborn babies who will come into world from the bellies mothers exposed to the radiation? And the children who waited, in vain, for their parents to pick them up from school, not knowing whether they will ever see them again? What about the innumerable families whose homes were swallowed by the waves of the tsunami?
Then, of course, there’s the lingering question: what’s next? Because it will happen again- and we don't know when, and we don't know where- whether it will be right here, or next door, or so far away that it seems like a nightmare that we will wake up from.
On the other hand, and on the other side of the world (although only a few short kilometers from Italy)- there is a war. Operation Odyssey Dawn. Civilians have perished at the hands of their own leader, casualties are rising, and the words “installations, bombings, forces, targets, sieges and so on” are making more appearances in the news than they have since Iraq eight years ago. Gheddafi is promising “a long, drawn-out war with no limits” and I’m writing articles about marketing and researching natural dog biscuit manufacturers.
I don't know if the world is a scarier place than it was 100,200,1000 years ago- or if the information age merely gives us what it has promised to- information. And here I am, trying to figure out what to do with this influx of data and knowledge. How am I supposed to react? And more importantly, should I be doing more? I wish there existed a handbook to tell me the appropriate reaction to diverse situations. But alas, there is no instruction manual, and there is no guidebook on how to save a world that seems to be imploding on itself.
So I guess I must answer with what I find most suitable in this situation. I watch the news, I write, I contact my friends in Northern Africa and Japan to make sure they are OK, and I promise myself that This Too Shall Pass just as all the other wars have passed and cities have been rebuilt. And I hope that the scars- mental and physical- will one day heal. I hope that future generations we will be better prepared to deal with environmental disasters. And I keep thinking to myself that all those insipid beauty queens had a point as they stood on stage, lights glaring in their faces, spreading their phony dreams of “world peace” as the rest of the world lauged. But the world isn’t laughing now. No one is laughing now. There’s something wrong with the world today…