There are protests happening in Baltimore, Maryland at this moment, because yet another unarmed black man was killed by a police officer. Thousands in the streets.
An earthquake in Nepal has killed over three thousand people.
A person very dear to me is sick. The bad kind of sick, the kind that isn’t going to get better.
I feel like I have nothing to say.
For the first time in awhile, I feel like I have nothing to say.
It’s not just me, is it? Who can’t imagine what they could possibly say, when it’s all too much?
I keep breathing and I keep walking around and I keep trying to solve the minor problems of my life, but not with any direct intention, not with any significant drive or determination. My car broke down? Okay. I’ll sort of google some stuff and I’ll ask my parents for their advice and their help, but I secretly just want them to tell me what to do, because I can’t seem to focus on it, because I don’t want to solve this problem on my own. I’m feeling a little fat? Okay. I’ll eat fewer carbs and I’ll say no to beer for a few weeks and I’ll stare at my stomach and do a half-hearted few situps and wish for everything to magically shrink. I haven’t updated this blog in a few weeks? I’ll cast around for a topic and I’ll start to imagine the piece I might write, but truth be told, it all sounds so insignificant, and I’m tired of my own voice before I even put the words on the page. I want to tell you all about going to this conference, about standing up and giving this speech and feeling like I might be a decent public speaker after all, about the thrilling electricity of making a room laugh, go along with you for the ride. I want to tell you about sitting in a hot tub drinking a margarita at the end of a long day, having conquered some fears, and feeling beautiful and feeling like everything just out of reach was so very possible, that everything was going to turn out okay. Feeling like I was right on the cusp of something Big and Important. Looking up at this big open sky, feeling so aware of the sensation, “I am very happy right now,” wondering where it was going to go from here.
But then I don’t write about that thing, because I sit down and there’s this little critic voice, which sounds exactly like my own, saying, Must be nice. Poolside margaritas, huh? Fuck you. People are dying.
I think about the backlash leveled at CNN for their coverage of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, refusing to cut away to show the protests in Baltimore. Because “the most powerful man in the world was telling some jokes.”
I am somebody who tells a lot of jokes. And some days, I can’t shake the suspicion that I’m playing the fiddle and Rome is on fire.
Tell the truth, I’ve been feeling that a lot, lately. I’m a costume designer and a writer. And yes, of course I know, on some very deep level, that there is inherent value in those things, that art and creativity are what makes a civilization great, that culture is shaped and created by the wanderers, the poets, the outcasts, the dreamers. That making the world more beautiful is important, and valuable.
And then you think, Was the world honestly made a more beautiful place because I made some really great costumes for a play that was literally titled “Unnecessary Farce”?
I keep breathing and I keep going and I wonder if people who work for Habitat for Humanity or the American Cancer Society ever feel this way. That all the problems are so big and all of the solutions feel so small.
I keep breathing. I keep going. I understand, in times like this, why people are drawn towards religion, this idea that someone else out there has a master plan for all of this, that we can’t even begin to comprehend. I don’t believe that personally, but I get why people are drawn to it. I read the news and there’s so much of it and it’s separated from me by a computer, filtered through a journalist, words on a page that are meant to bridge the gap between me, in my pajamas with a cup of coffee, and the stuff that is actually news: mangled flesh, torn bodies, rubble crushing limbs, nightmare screams, howls of protest and anger. Words on the page that become meaningless in aggregate: how many times can you hear about corrupt politicians or homelessness or poverty or income inequality or a natural disaster in a place you have never visited, before those words take on less and less meaning, before you start to hear just a buzzing in the ears because those words no longer cue your brain to feel outrage, no longer cause you to truly think, someone who is human, just as I am, is suffering?
I write stuff like this, and I have no idea if it’s useful or not. I feel anger and I don’t know what to do with it. I feel paralyzed, feel the pressure of knowing too much information, aware of the paradox: the world is so big and I truly know nothing. I put the laundry in the dryer. I pay the gas bill. I keep breathing. I keep going. I wonder what will happen tomorrow. I wonder what I can do about today.