What to do about the world? Thoughts on commitment, confusion, distraction

Yesterday, K turned 17. We celebrated with breakfast crêpes, gifts, sushi lunch*, Dark Crystal at the ATL and Ultimate Yogurt. At the theater, I bought Chelsea a vodka martini, which I can do since she turned 21 in February. One of the advantages of having kids later in life must be an extended ability to refuse acknowledging your own aging. For me, I can’t look at my two daughters and pretend I’m anywhere close to anything other than a well-earned 41. They are what youth looks like. I am not.

On the upside, one of the advantages of being older is, you get to own it. If you’re 25 and acknowledging your hotness, it comes off as conceit. But if you’re in your 40s and saying, “Hell, yeah, I look good,” then people tend to react with a, “Right on, sister!” instead. And if they don’t, well, you simply get to not give a flying fuck about it. When I was younger and women in their 30s and 40s would say they’re having their best decades ever, I thought it was just bluster designed to hide their horror over wrinkles and weight struggles. Turns out, they meant it. Beyond the insecurity and anxiety of one’s 20s exists a beautiful place where confidence and sexiness meet. So, yay for age!

Thus concludes the shallow portion of my blog post.

But I don’t know what to do about the world. I sat at the theater last night wondering how it is we go about our lives as if awful things aren’t happening all around, at all times. Besides the natural disasters, we have war, poverty, disease, crime, pollution. Slavery thrives. Children are being beaten. People are sleeping in the cold. Animals suffer abuse for our pleasure and convenience. Species are going extinct. Shouldn’t we all bring our lives to a screeching halt and fix some of these problems? If enough people refused to participate in “normal” life until such measures were taken, would it make a difference? How far can we go on civil disobedience, how far are we willing to go, and can it be effective against problems not as easily defined as a straightforward dictatorship or civil rights? Worldwide marching in the streets certainly didn’t slow down America’s commitment to the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. Who’s going to rally the people against child slavery? Certainly not the folks who think avoiding the gas station for a day makes some sort of statement. (Other than, “My commitment to social change is minimal at best.”)

Because the problems are so huge, so nebulous, solving them is far beyond our individual capacity – so people tend to shrug, say, “Yes, that’s awful,” and then get on with their business. What can you do? Complain about political leaders? Pay attention to what you buy? Send money to Doctors Without Borders? (Please send money to DWB.) Do we commit all our spare income to charity and change until war is stopped, people are freed and disease is eradicated? Refuse to go out to eat, eschew cocktail moments, rent no movies and instead put every penny to the cause? Part of me says YES and can’t understand why we don’t – and yes, I know some people, better people, do. And then another part of me is distracted by the dreams and desires of my own greedy nature. I want MY life, too, damn it. Is this hypocritical – that I spend so much time volunteering and working on environmental issues (which are often, at core, human rights issues) and then I stamp my feet over doing more? Conventional activist wisdom is, you do what you can. But what if what we can isn’t enough?

I understand why people would want to believe in God. A lot of relief exists in the idea that some grand architect is behind all this and we are therefore absolved of much responsibility. “It’s in God’s hands.” But what if it’s not? What if it’s in ours and we’re utterly failing to do the right thing?

Kaylee is sick, feverish. All I can do today is stay focused, work hard, care for my daughter, scramble to get enough cash in the bank to cover the remaining checks I wrote to all the doctors I’m still paying off from when Bobby was hospitalized this time last year. I sold a bunch of books to Booklegger Saturday – $40 worth. Usually I go for the credit, but this time I needed the funds. Note: Tin Can Mailman and Booklegger are both wonderful places to buy used books, but if you’re looking to sell, start at Booklegger. Much better return. (Also, if anyone wants a copy of Amy Sedaris’ latest, I imagine the copy formerly known as mine is either on the shelf or about to be.)

All that on one cup of Earl Grey. Time for a second cup and to get to work. I’ll do what I can….

(*sushi lunch: I made sushi rice, then spent an hour on the couch with a book Kaylee recommended, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. The story pulled me in so deeply that when I broke away to make the sushi rolls, I completely forgot to add the rice on top of the nori – distracted, I layered shredded carrots, spinach, tofu and gomasio, but couldn’t understand why the rolls were so skinny. Finally, after three anemic sushi attempts, I noticed the bowl of rice next to me on the counter and realized, “Oh, yeah. Rice.” Ridiculous. I finished the rolls properly, then polished off the book.)

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2 thoughts on “What to do about the world? Thoughts on commitment, confusion, distraction”

  1. Thus concludes the shallow portion of my blog post.

    Cute.

    Anyway, I am here not only to read your post, but to inform you that your blog is deeply involved in this years Humboldt Blogger’s Tournament. In case you have not been following, your blog just knocked off the mighty Humboldt Herald tonight. Your next opponent is Samoa Softball. So yes, for the second straight year you will be involved in a Thrilla in Manila!

    Good Luck!

    SAL

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