May 5, 2006

And what did it mean...


And what did it mean that we felt no true sense of direction, that we were aimless, paralyzed, confused and at the end of the day could not really say why. That we were not criminals of action but only criminals of thought. That we hungered for something new but when we saw something new felt sure it was only the same old thing we’d seen so many times before. That in the morning we waited for evening and in the evening we waited for night. That travel sounded good but staying home sounded even better. That books were written, and re-written, and re-written again, but it was so very difficult to find anyone to actually read them. That the war most certainly continued though it was often no longer possible to read about it in the papers. What did it mean that a crime could be committed and no one could care less. Or that we would pretend to care but essentially fool no one. Profit is difficult to maintain. Sensationalism still works whether or not one can easily see through it. A vague sense of menace hangs stilted in the air. The world we wanted was a world only able to change so much.

[Berlin, 2006]


1 comment:

Robin said...

Jacob, I am glad that you're back. With interest I have read the guest thinkers you have selected, but I was not moved to comment. Why not, when your own insight, critiques, and disappointments are as theirs?

I think the answer has something to do with your unease and despair. I have often wondered, especially the last few years, if the relative blytheness with which I go through my days in these blood-soaked times was shared by Canadians during the Holocaust. I shiver in imagining that it must have been.

I don't think it is the case that nobody cares about crimes against humanity, however. I think that many of us feel such tremendous threat of heartbreak and psychosis from the disparity between the immensity of our horror and the power we think we have to do something about the root causes of it. Apparent heartlessness may be heartlessness, and it may also cover anything but.

Of course you know this, and of course this will not make any of us feel or do better. Still, I am strangely compelled to write it.

I write now because, unlike the other writers featured in this blog, you are not abstract to me. You are abstraction, too, but you are also flesh and blood in my little life.

As I struggle, mostly quietly, inside myself in trying to figure out how to live a decent life I keep coming back to the intuition that doing a lot less thinking about this in grand terms may help me to actually do more good in this life by focusing more on what I can do here, today, within a much more limited domain than that which I can imagine.

We risk not doing enough, and we know what is said sometimes truly about good intentions, but we should not despise ourselves for being small, for caring more about what is right in front of us than what is far away. (Should we be troubled and spurred by this? I think, hell yeah, but disgust inspires violence and numbness.)

We are only human, and perhaps it is not for us to foresee and weigh the eventual significance of all our actions. Perhaps we should only try to concretely make something better for someone else besides ourselves on a regular basis, and not be so weighted down by our own self-importance that we cannot extend a hand to someone or an organization nearby who is connected to webs of events and others much further away.