Not since the depths of the pandemic have things seemed so dark. And at least then, there was a brief (these things are always brief) feeling of unity as we faced the viral invader together.
Now there are wars breaking out, senseless and savage slaughter, rapidly escalating climate change, political chaos, and, as if nature had a sense of humor, a fiery eclipse.
It’s enough to throw even the strongest of us into despair.
I’m not immune, either. Though I have a generally optimistic mindset, one that usually springs back quickly, even I find myself dragged down by the seemingly endless litany of horrible events that dance across my computer screen like so many virtual murder hornets.
There’s nothing I can do to change the course of these events.
But I can control how much of the darkness to allow through my door, and how it affects me
Light is a choice.
If you look past the headlines, there are glimmers of good news out there too.
We’re actually making surprising progress in our conversion from fossil fuels to electric, with sales of electric cars increasing at a stunning pace. Up to ten seats may become winnable for Democrats in 2024, enough to swing the House. The labor movement has taken on surprising new strength, notching wins in multiple fields. NASA just launched a new space probe to explore a metallic asteroid, a primary source of materials for our expansion beyond Earth.
And I picked ten purple bell peppers yesterday and made the most amazing pico de gallo (with Mark’s help).
Okay, so you won’t find that last one in any newspaper. But my point is this – there are burst of light all around you trying to pierce the darkness, and chances for you to shine a little light of your own too.
But if we’re going to survive the next ten years as a species, more than just looking for a little light will be required.
We need to be the light.
It starts small – doing the things we can in our own lives to make the world a little better. It’s something that Mark has encouraged both of us to think about, every morning. Compost your food waste. Say something nice to a stranger. Share something true and beautiful on social media. Get reusable cups for your coffee runs to Starbucks.
Each flicker of light is the start of a blazing sun.
But we need to scale it up, too. Have some of the hard conversations with earnest people who have different points of view. Look at some of the world’s intractable problems and step beyond black and white into the uncomfortable shades of gray in between. Encourage understanding where it’s lacking. Talk peace where there’s war. Share food where there’s hunger. Elevate someone else’s needs above your own.
Writers have a unique ability and responsibility to inject a little light into the world, too. Our words can illuminate a path, seeding ideas that might bloom into something better. We can imagine a world our kids will thank us for leaving to them instead of cursing us for the wreckage we have left behind.
Chaos is a virus that spreads on flames of darkness and fear.
But kindness is a virus too, a spark carried up above those fires to float through the air, before settling to the ground in someplace far away and unexpected, a seed that can grow something hopeful and bright.
So take heart, my friends. Turn away from the endless drumbeat of darkness and despair. Look for and share bits of light, of truth, of beauty. Of your glorious self.
Be the brightness we all need so desperately. Light by light, the world will change.