Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gazing In, Gazing Out

In 1989, I lived in Watertown, Massachusetts for a summer. Later I lived in Boston for a year.

Am I narcissistic and self-absorbed because that time in my life is what came to mind as I watched police officers swarm Watertown yesterday, or when I saw footage on Monday of the Boston Marathon's finish line across the street from the public library where I spent hours and days as a newly minted college graduate searching through newspapers and magazines in an ultimately fruitless search for a job? Am I somehow trying to coopt the bombings so that people end up feeling sorry for me?

No. Here's why: having lived in the Boston area, I was able to insert myself into those streets and communities, and the ability to do so broadened and deepened my empathy, outrage, and sorrow as events played out this week.

We teach the first and second graders in our classroom to make connections between the texts they read and themselves, and between the same texts and the larger world. We do that to make their comprehension of written material richer. The human brain benefits from more intricate and elaborate pathways between and among neurons (brain cells). This is only intuitive.

I grow weary of the accusations leveled at social media users - bloggers included - that we are navel-gazing. Who navel-gazes? Philosophers, novelists, thinkers of all stripes.

Linking our experiences to the world stamps us as citizens of Earth. It is how we learn to care about people other than those in our immediate families, and it is how we continue to care, once we are living independently. Translate caring into action, and communities of helpers are born. We can't all be police officers, detectives, mayors, governors, or presidents. But there are other ways of catching the bad guys. Some of us write. I like to think that the writers among us not only document the wrongs that exist locally, nationally, and globally, but also help others feel those wrongs so viscerally that they cannot help but be moved to right them.

And that's about as far from narcissism as it gets, isn't it?

4 comments:

Emily said...

This is a wonderful reflection on this. I often feel self-absorbed for doing this, but you're right that it's what we should do.

alejna said...

"Linking our experiences to the world stamps us as citizens of Earth. It is how we learn to care about people other than those in our immediate families, and it is how we continue to care, once we are living independently." Yes.

I completely agree with you. Sharing our thoughts, our emotions, and our connections to events enforces our common humanity. It is helpful for others to read such views, in all their variety. Sometimes the words will help those looking to process their own feelings, sometimes the words may help to someone see events from a different perspective.

I admire people who are able to write and post about events that have moved them. (This includes both you and Emily.) I am usually slow to process, and even slower to write. I feel deeply, but struggle to get my words in line.

I think that your own remarkable capacity for empathy, along with your beautiful way with words, make you a particularly compelling writer.

Anonymous said...

F-ck judgmental morons on the Internet.

De

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

I don't know if blogging makes me a better citizen but it has made me a better person. It's made me realize all the ways people are hurt and struggle and all the ways people do good and overcome.

It's made me appreciate how complicated we are, as individuals and as a society and as a nation and as a world. It's helped me learn to live with the messiness of life, love, relationships.