Taking inspiration from the living
After another night of delayed sleep, I made a thoroughly wavering, uncertain decision today to limit how much information I took in about the destruction in New York.
We bandy about the phrase "too much information," but in this case, it can be all too true. For each person it's different—but we each know when it happens—the moment when we know too much, and it's more than we can handle, emotionally or intellectually.I reached my moment about twenty-four hours ago over a specific, painful piece of information. For me, it was learning about a particular incident that the networks all have on videotape but refuse (rightly) to show. Even knowing of its existence was more than I could take. Jeff knows what that particular image was, but I will not repeat it here, for repetition is salt for the wound, not solace.
What I've caught glimpses of on the news since then seems to be a continuation of that kind of horror. I suppose that once the original horror of the situation wore off, the news shows all felt that they had to dig deeper, get even MORE personal, to display to the viewing public just how tragic, down to the micrometer, the whole incident was.
I admit that at first I felt very childish for how the images I saw disturbed me. Even though I saw public outpourings of emotion, I still wondered if I was the only person who had trouble sleeping over it. Every time I tried to close my eyes, the images came, unbidden. Images that any moderately compassionate person is going to have deep trouble comprehending, much less coping with.
Gareth said it well:
"The media doesn't help.. the same images repeated over.. and over.., so all you can see when you try to sleep are those terrifying images..
And to make matters worse, they have now started playing answerphone messages left by people calling from the towers… I'm sure they are trying to leave the population with a mental problem. I'm actively avoiding specific parts of the news now…"
The images have a mesmeric quality. It's very easy to log in or turn on the TV in the hopes of somehow finding some miniscule smidgen of a happy ending. The hope that someone is found alive; someone wasn't at work when they said they would be; someone missing a flight they were scheduled to take.
In the end, we are optimists. No happy ending yet? Wait a few more minutes. Perhaps something will change.
So, today, I tried to turn my focus a bit. I looked elsewhere from New York to try to take some kind of inspiration from the living. Seeing American flags flying from local businesses. Hearing that a local radio station held a drive to raise fifteen thousand dollars for the Red Cross, thinking it would take days, but instead meeting their goal within six hours.
In time, I—and this country, I think—will come out of this situation with one particular bit of self-knowledge strengthened and affirmed.
The overwhelming majority of humanity is decent, caring, supportive.
Our ability to care for each other rises as our need for each other rises.
In other words: we find a way to call out the extraordinary within our ordinary selves in order to deal with extraordinary situations.
It's one of many reasons I'll get up tomorrow morning.