Wednesday, January 30, 2013
A Little House in the Woods
Sometimes I want to pack up the essentials and each other and make our way to a little house in the woods, away. To live lightly and fully. To shut out the world's news and crises and live, together.
Wouldn't that be lovely?
I used to regard derisively those who did not place a tangible and weighty importance on "being informed", keeping up with the latest news from around the world. This was how to be an intelligent, well-heeled person of worth. (Perhaps that degree in international studies played its part.) It seemed so important, to know what was happening and to "be active", involved. Lately I feel battered by the news; by all the immediate urgency of non-crises and imminent non-crises, and the way that those things that just might be a crisis skirt around the edges of invisibility. By the way it feels like our world is unraveling, coming apart at the seams.
I feel this same tearing at my seams: what used to be so clear cut to me is now all conflicted. I am in the habit of tuning in to NPR while I work during the days with the boys at school. It is one of those invisible lines of connection to the outside world of adult conversation that I have valued over these years. But it is also my source of all this battering news. So do I turn it of? Here is one side: the connection, and the chance to learn some new things, hear different points of views from some interesting people. Here is another: that old bias hanging on - it feels a bit blasphemous, really, to assert that maybe, just perhaps, I don't need to be so informed. That my intelligence is not intimately determined by this. And then a third side: the weariness of hearing all the varied and repetitive ways which people find to hurt themselves and each other, here and there and on the other side of the world, and the many ways in which we are facing certain doom. Which are generally averted in last minute deals. And I wonder if I wouldn't be better off just, letting, go.
I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's newest book, which is a powerful story about the effects of climate change. One of those crises steeped in the invisibility of collective denial due to the lack of an assured 11th hour compromise: all suspense, no sure sigh of relief at the end. And it's left me feeling unnerved and wanting to head for the woods.*
I used to be so sure of the power of activism. Not that I could ever have truthfully called myself an activist. But my intentions were good. Now I feel powerless in the face of such big - monumental - problems. (I am aware that's bordering on defeatist: but sometimes that's just the only response to such overwhelming situations, at least for a time.) Hence the little house in the woods fantasy: escaping the weight of this frantic, urgency-addicted world.. (Exact placement of said fantasy encouraged by a second go-round of the Little House books, no doubt.)
If I can't effect any real big picture change, then what can I do? Give in to defeatism, which, obviously is not a workable option (though it's got a mighty strong pull). If not that, then of course the answer is to take action with the way I, and we, live. Though even that can feel out of my hands sometimes. The missing piece, right now for me, is how to get from that answer to the specifics of how and what, and especially the way to find peace with how small and (seemingly) inadequate an action it is.
I'd love to hear from you: How do you manage the news coming into your life? How do you find peace with what you are or are not able to do to make a difference in issues of overwhelming proportion?
*I really do recommend this book, despite the unnerving effect. It is beautifully written and full of honesty, like all of her stories.