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?