In Defense of Living

Do you ever sit down to write one thing, but something completely different bursts forth and demands to be told? It happens to me all the time.

This is one of those posts.

As I prepared to write a glowing review of the touring Broadway production of Aladdin, I froze. “How,” I asked myself, “can I possibly write about something like that, with what is happening right now in our country? In the world?

How can I even admit that I went to go see a musical in the midst of tragedy, much less justify it?”

And then, as they so often do, a Harry Potter quote rang in my head. (I will try to introduce the quote with as little spoiler as possible.) 

SCENE: A battle of the ages in the ultimate war of good vs. evil looms. Guests mingle at a wedding, in a mix of joy and discomfort.

Ginny: Seems silly, doesn’t it? A wedding. Given everything that’s going on.

Harry: Maybe that’s the best reason to have it. Because of everything that’s going on.

Yes. This simple exchange has stuck with me ever since. There are so many embedded sub-questions in here: Is this the time for happiness? Is this the time for celebration? Is this the time for love?

Sometimes, you can’t explain why one thing affects you more than other things. Ever since the Charlottesville violence a few weeks ago, dark clouds have filled either the front or the back of my mind. People died in the name of protesting hate–I’ve been stunned into a cycle of mournful quietude and exchanges of dismay and sorrow with the people around me. 

We spoke of these dark times by the candlelight around my sister’s birthday pies (lovingly homemade by my mom). Every gathering of loved ones is a blessing, one we take less for granted than ever.

How can I write about a sparkly joyous moment like a musical, which lifted my heart and filled me with wonder? How can I rationalize the disconnection from the somber everyday when playing “escape from the monster” with toddlers in sprinklers at my boyfriend’s nephew’s birthday party?

Who was escaping what?

And, again, a quote from literature resounds with me:

Fairy tales are more than real, because they prove that dragons can be beaten.” –G.K. Chesterton/Neil Gaiman

Those questions about the time for love and joy–the answer is yes, now–right now. They are essential to our makeup. If we don’t have those, if we aren’t working towards those, why fight for anything? What is the point of anything, if not those two things?

I am not suggesting we soothe away our anxieties and sadnesses about the world with shiny distractions, ignoring problems as if they don’t exist. 

I am saying–we need both. We need the armor of our loves and joys to equip us for our–the world’s–battles. Eat the birthday cake; smell the flowers; hug your family. We need these to center our focus on what we can do to help, not sink into paralyzing despair.

I’m going to focus on the animal shelters around the country sending pet food for the dogs held in loving arms above the floodwaters in Texas, on the crowded lanes of people towing their boats from other states to help those stranded in Texas–where news sources have noted a beautiful unity in the face of tragedy.  I’m going to donate used clothes to a shelter nearby bringing relief supplies to Texas this weekend–check Facebook or the news for one by you.

And as her mother heartbreakingly, inspiringly said, let us focus on Hannah Heyer’s message of love and acceptance in the face of total evil–her message only amplified by her sacrifice, ringing louder than anything so transient as death.