(Image pulled from Adrian Schoonmaker’s blog)
In response to The New York Times article “650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing.”
629. “Why Should We Care About Events in Other Parts of the World?”
We should care for one reason: Connection.
It’s too easy to shut ourselves in. It’s too easy to tune people out. It’s too easy to put things off. And it’s too easy to not care.
I get busy. I get confused. I know they hurt, and you know I hurt too. So?
What the hell is wrong with the world, we want to say. “Have we all woken up and taken a crazy pill?” asked my professor the other day. The eternal questions come up, again, and again, again, and again.
In the Brothers Karamazov, in a tavern at dinner, the two lead brothers discuss the nature of suffering. The Muscovite brother tells the monk brother something to the effect of, It is much easier for man to love a stranger far away, than to love one’s neighbor, why love one’s neighbor? He goes on to say that when someone is far away it is easy to abstract them, to pin them as someone in need, but no concrete action is required to help. Whereas a neighbor asking for help comes with a face. A man on the street asking for change comes with a smell. These are the ones we are most frightened of helping, because lo, they might hurt us, or, oh someone else gave the man a dollar and saved me (from having to help)! Isn’t it strange?
But the question is, Why should we care about events in other parts of the world, and here I’ve been mentioning the Karamazov to say, Wait, we do in fact “care” about other parts of the world; but what I want to make clear is that to “care” about other parts of the world should be more than just “feeling sorry” about other parts of the world. I think the question is wrong in that sense: I think we do “feel sorry” for events in other parts of the world, but to “care” there must be action. From that same dinner conversation at the tavern: a misplaced article of clothes, or a crumpled tissue on the floor are used as examples of things we leave unattended, that make us feel bad, but that we never do anything about it. Well, this is what I mean, there are people in need, and we know for a fact they are in need, and that we should help — more than “feel sorry,” almost more than “care” — but to act. But for some reason, we don’t. That should be the real NYT question. Why don’t we help when we know there is so much trouble in the world? Or even better, less philosophical and more practical: How can I help when I know there is so much trouble in the world? Or better still, more direct, and to the point: How can I help you? How do you feel? Where are we in this?
“I’m gonna make a change,” sings Michael Jackson. “Gonna make it right.” And then he starts with himself. That’s one way.
“Why should we care?” UGH, what a disease! The question itself sounds like a kind of typhus! It sounds like a customer waiting for you to sell him something! “Why should we care? Sell it to me!” Ghastly! It makes me sick. That’s a problem we have here, the one where the fast and the furious busy bodies of the 21st century need to be taught empathy. What a show.
No one asks, “Why should I scream when I stub my toe,” because that is a natural reaction. But what loneliness, what utter solitude, what hole in the ground, to know that when we stub our toe we are in complete separation from the world around us. Do you remember hurting yourself as a child, and realizing for the first time that the scrapped knees or the door-slammed thumb of yours, that throbbing appendage, was yours alone? It’s a terrible, terrible thing.
But I have a theory. Maybe the whole world doesn’t scream with you, but you will scream, and perhaps mommy comes and wraps that finger up in a sugar water bandage, and a kiss. Maybe your roommate stubs his toe, but you’re there on the double to throw the man a beer. C’mon, it isn’t hard to do. I don’t want to be cynical. You don’t want to be cynical. “You have the love of humanity in your heart,” says Chaplin. When the world doesn’t hurt with you, they can help you better. Right?
And here I am pontificating on the nature of human beings. I can’t even get most people to care about the ish that comes out of my mouth. There is something missing. That something is connection. It drowns me to feel alone. It drowns everyone. And should we be made to care about others when our woes be themselves too deep? Yes, for the love of man and for the love of woman, yes! I won’t ramble much longer, but you can make a change, YES, how many times must it be said. Has kindness been sold to you yet, ye cruel ones? Let it be done.
I speak now to the innocent and the brave. Girdle your loincloth and buckle up. You already care about events around the world, and I am here to underscore that thought scribbled across the back of your mind. Mark it. Matthew it. John it. “It isn’t hard to do,” he sang.
Connection. We want to feel connected to others. We need others to feel connected to us. It is as simple as that. Whether they live in Green Bay, or Timbuktu, Virginia or Vladivostok, Paris or Persepolis! We are already connected, in fact, funny enough, it is only a matter of feeling that way and remembering such things and coming to grips with what holds us back. Go then, and sing yourself a song, to help others follow along.