I wanted to write but didn’t know about what, and for inspiration I turned to the news. The headlines read: continued protests and unrest in Ferguson, MO; ISIS demanded ransoms before beheading journalist; bombs kill Palestinian leaders in Gaza; quarantines enacted in West Africa as Ebola continues to spread; Russian troops amass along Ukraine border.
I closed the Times window. What the hell? The sour enormity of it all was enough to retreat to bed. Close eyes, go somewhere better than this.
This is not the response I want to have to the world, yet I find it difficult to muster more. When you see so much you don’t want and yet can’t imagine how to change it for the better. The rub there, that burr that sticks under my skin and poisons my insides, is the ‘can’t imagine,’ which, without being glib to the human destruction that’s happening, is probably the worst part of that sentence.
What can I imagine doing to make the world better? To make it more-than what it currently is? To actively participate in the creating of a more equitable, just, rewarding and good world? Should I sign an online petition? Dump a bucket of cold water on my head? Write my senator?
Of course I blush when writing these things.
From a certain critical bent, the robbing of my imagination as a vehicle for making real, material change in the world epitomizes the victory of the status quo, or the forces of power and capital behind it, who of course have little interest in changing quos. From a social-psychological perspective it borders on total paralyzation, which is more or less saying the same thing. In other words—get depressed, throw up hands in frustration, then search Amazon for a foam roller exercise pad to loosen that tight IT band.
I’m a middle class white guy living at the forefront of human potentials. I have a job, I make fair money, I exercise and spend time with friends; green plants line my windows and an ergonomically-designed mattress helps me sleep; I buy music and pay other people to cook my food; there is a record player across the room and the hallway houses shoes for all seasons.
I can imagine everyone living like this and beyond. I wish it for my friend’s children as I dream of them becoming taller.
I can also imagine people not-beheading others and not-dropping bombs and not-shooting unarmed anybody’s. I can imagine scientists developing useful drugs even if the people who need them can’t justify the financial calculus of economic return. I can imagine an end to homelessness, to addiction, to injustice, to all the things that I see every day, both in the news and as I walk to work, that I simply accept as life and its grinning status quo.
I don’t know how to make any of that happen.
I can purchase a foam roller for $21.99 and get next-day delivery.
Last week a friend told me, “I can’t imagine a world without money.”
I should’ve known it was over then.