The past few weeks have been of epic newsworthy proportions. I’m nowhere near a news junkie but I’ve been riveted by the stories and watching them unfold. And if you’ve been keeping up with the news feed either from a journalistic source or an emotional source (like Facebook), you probably have this running montage in your head.
White cop shoots black man James Foley beheading Illegal immigrants swarm the borders Earthquake in California ISIS takes over Iraq Obama plays golf Ebola virus spreads Icelandic volcano erupts Russia invades Ukraine Syria challenges U.S. ISIS threatens Chicago
It’s a constant bombardment of news and the reaction I’ve seen from many friends is not unfounded.
Let’s bury our heads in the sand and pretend none of it is happening.
If that would make our reality disappear, I’d do the same thing. Because the reality is horrific and overwhelming and, for many of us, incomprehensible. We attempt to use our western world ideology and sensibility to understand what possesses people to do the things they do and when we can’t come to a rational answer, we want to run away.
A year or so ago, I hosted our neighborhood book club at my house. As the hostess, it was my responsibility to choose the book for the month. Even though I’ll read just about anything, I was drawn to a selection that might delve a little deeper than the latest chick lit novel and consulted with some of the “Best of” lists on Goodreads. Somehow I landed on “The Giver,” not really knowing much about it.
A dystopian young adult novel (written before young adult novels were cool), it creates a serene, if not sterile, environment of mild-mannered citizens with predictable behavior. The color of life has literally been stripped away as children are sent to live in a family unit and attend school until they reach the age of assignment. The Elders watch them throughout their childhood to determine the best use of their natural abilities.
The point of the story is that the color of life has been intentionally stripped away. No love, no hate, no fear, no ambiguity, no anger, no angst. Nothing to upset the balance of neutrality. Until one boy, Jonas, starts to see color on his own and is eventually selected to be the Receiver. In this role, he is to receive all memories of human existence: the good, the bad, the extremely painful. The Giver is to pass along all of these memories to Jonas so that he may finally be freed from the burden of holding all of these thoughts. Jonas will then keep all of these memories in an effort to understand why they have chosen their way of life.
When I saw the movie “The Giver” last week, it stuck with me. At first, Jonas can’t understand why humans would turn their backs on things like flowers and music and love until he is confronted with inhumanities such as poaching, starvation, and war.
He realizes that even with the overwhelming pain of the memories, feeling alive is worth the price of admission and he stop taking his daily injections so that he can begin to feel more. And that part hit home.
We are a medicated society. We take prescriptions anti-depressants to numb our emotions. We drink to forget our day. We smoke and snort and inject to deliver us from the pain. Or to dull the pain. Because we don’t want to accept our reality. We want to run and hide. We feel powerless.
There are horrible people in the world that do horrible things. We can’t pretend they don’t exist. If anything, we should be angry that they do exist. And with that anger, we should talk about it or do something about it but never, ever forget it.
And when it feels too much, take time to remember how much good is in the world.
Like dancing babies