I’m going to be honest here today – I’ve started and deleted this post five times already and I still don’t quite know how to say what is on my mind.
Last week, somewhere in between the bombing at the Boston Marathon and the explosion at West Texas, I had to take our beloved family dog for his very last ride. I sat on the floor beside him and and held his head in my lap while a veterinary technician, at my request, ended his life. The tears started then and flowed for hours. They were mostly for the dog I loved more than any other dog I’ve had the privilege to own, but they were also for all of the other sadness and death and disaster that was taking place in the wider world.
So much death. So much darkness. So much despair.
But the next day, even though the new disasters started to unfold, I dried my eyes, opened my laptop, and got back to work on my little book.
And I’m going to confess that I haven’t watched any news footage of the bombing or the explosion or the man hunt. I followed along a bit on Twitter, but other than that I deliberately looked away. Some of you will think that this is selfish on my part, or that I’m hiding my head in the sand, or even that my response shows a hard heart or disrespect for those who died.
And I will tell you that I disagree. My heart breaks for the families who have lost loved ones – I know that pain. Also for those who were injured, and for the children who saw that bomb go off and lost their innocence and the belief that the world is essentially safe and predictable. In fact, my heart breaks for the bombers, for whatever set of genetics and life circumstances turned them into the sort of people who would do such a thing.
But I also believe that there is nothing to be gained by staring too long and hard at the pain and evil in this world. In fact, our fixation as a nation with disaster media reminds me of Pippin and the palantir in the Lord of the Rings. If we spend too much time looking, I fear soon all we will see is the red eye of Sauron looking back at us and forget about all of the things in this world that are beautiful and bright and good.
I’m not wired to be a political activist. I can’t imagine ever being somebody engaged in making wide sweeping changes in the world. But I can make small ones. I can go to work and spend time reminding my clients that there are good and beautiful things in the world. I can hug my family and send love to my friends.
And I can write. Writing is my way of whistling in the dark. It allows me to create worlds where things make sense, where there is some sort of logical cause and effect. Characters behave as they do for a reason. Justice happens, and sometimes even redemption.
It seems to me that this is a valid response to the dark. Small, perhaps. I’m writing urban fantasy and not some brilliant social commentary that has the potential to change the world. But I like to believe that even small books make a difference. That the things we write – even the blog posts and maybe sometimes even Facebook posts and tweets – have power to make things different for somebody.
And if it so happens that what I create makes no difference to anybody else, it makes a difference to me. I am only one, but everything starts somewhere and I have to believe that I, too, matter in the grand scheme of things.
As do you.