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breeden
ursulav

Unfixable

Everything in the world appears to be wrong, and I cannot seem to fix any of it.

The bees are collapsing, the amphibians are dying, the seas are warming, women are killed outright for sins men are carrying around in their heads, cops can shoot black people and walk away without even a slap on the wrist, and atrocities that I wouldn't write into a book because I'd make myself sick have been done, ostensibly to keep me safe, and no one will ever be brought to justice for it.

And I feel like I could pour out the balance of my life on any of these things and I would die exhausted and the problem still wouldn't be fixed. Might not even so much as budge.

And in some cases, it might be worth it, except that I don't even know how to start. You may eat a whale one bite at a time, but I don't know even where they're keeping the forks.

Douglas Adams apparently thought, later in life, that he should have been a scientist, that being a scientist would have given him some chance to make the world better, and maybe he was right. (I think writing "Last Chance to See" really kicked him hard. I understand why.) Certainly politics isn't doing it. The good politicians are, at best, trying unsuccessfully to put the brakes on the worst of what the bad politicians are doing. Scientists probably have the best shot at fixing anything. It's a shame I'm so crap at math.

The problem...a problem...one of more problems than I can begin to fathom...is maybe that our narratives are so often about the hero fixing things. Winning. Making a difference. The heroine slays the dragon, averts disaster, keeps the world from going completely to hell in a handbasket. The hero shoots the bad guys or fights their way to justice or takes bloody revenge for the ills of the world, or whatever.

Anyway, you win. You don't...I don't know...make one tiny difference and hope the people who come after you don't mess it up too badly. Even games that have no victory conditions also have no consequences. You lose at Tetris and you don't have to cope with loss, you just restart.

Maybe we need the books and the games and the narratives that give us the coping mechanisms for not being able to fix things. For being one tiny person in a world that is so desperately screwed.

Because honestly, I am having a hard time coping with that right now. My usual small victories are looking smaller and smaller. I truly believe I've made a difference in the world, but the difference is so little and the world is so large and no matter how big those victories get, the world will always be so much larger. I could measure my life out in children who have read books and turtles helped across the road and food kitchen meals provided and all of that is good and it might prove that I'm not an awful human being, but the seas will not get any cooler because of it.

It seems cruel that despair is a mortal sin. They really get you coming and going on that one.

So, here we are again. We may fix nothing, so we might as well cope. Anybody read any good books?

I'm reading a lot of dystopian YA. I've got two boxed four book theologies awaiting freedom next week after grades are done -- The Giver and The Mazerunner.

Of course I think part of the appeal of dystopian YA is the whole How the Hell did this stupid system get started? (grin) Kind of makes you feel better for the messed up present. (ironic-grin)

Dr. Phil

You and I seem to have similar reading preferences. I just finished "The Summer Prince" by Alaya Dawn Johnson, and the "Divergent" series by Veronica Roth. My theology books are non-fiction though. And I've got a stack of books on the functions of the human brain to read.

Are you on Goodreads or LibraryThing?

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I was thinking that it's a shame Ursula can't read her own books to cheer herself up.

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I enjoyed "The Summer Prince" by Alaya Dawn Johnson, and the "Divergent" series by Veronica Roth. But I wouldn't recommend them to anyone in your condition since they are both post apocalyptic dystopias.

I like The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. The Tarcher Cornerstone Edition is not the best translation but it is small and very readable. He was a Stoic which is a very good philosophy in the face of despair.

Humor is also a good antidote for despair. Have you ever tried Patrick F. McManus? He is a nature writer. But his books are great if you need to sit in a corner and giggle. He invented the "Modified Stationary Panic".

I adore McManus. His essay on Sequences is a thing of glory!

I always say I know I can't save the world but I can clean up my own little corner of it. And so that's what I do. It makes a difference for those directly involved and ripples out to the fringes. Do what you can do. No one can ask for more.

I certainly second that thought.

Well ... I'll quote you one of my favorite passages of coping advice. It comes from a wombat we all know and love.

"But let's not panic.

Just think of it like a cave-in.

There's no immediate way out, but that's okay. Relax. Breathe slowly. Don't worry about getting out. Don't worry about the people back home, because you can't do anything about that right now. Stay calm.

Don't try to fix everything at once. Focus. Just assess the situation and do whatever needs to be done next. And don't waste air.

Well, that last doesn't really apply, but it's a useful sentiment anyway."


Also, if you haven't yet read The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison aka Sarah Monette, I recommend it highly as an antidote to despair.

Also, if you'd like a recent news story that made me happy, see this one on a group working to design a better suit for medical workers treating Ebola patients. The team includes doctors, infectious disease specialists, medical device makers - and a wedding dress designer from Baltimore.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-a-wedding-dress-maker-is-trying-to-stop-the-spread-of-ebola/2014/11/09/5335db92-607c-11e4-8b9e-2ccdac31a031_story.html

Finding good books is hard. There are a couple that I read simply because they're so black & white that I'm surprised the villains don't twirl moustaches. (The main one, btw, is Conflict of Honors by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I wish Wrede's Enchanted Forest books were available as ebooks so I could keep them around for the same reason.)

The news today sickened me -- the Senate report, the SCOTUS decision, more police issues.

I will say this: I reread Digger because it moves me to both laughter and tears. And that's something.

Oh crap, I had missed SCOTUS having a thing today... :(

I am a scientist. I have just this second come out of a meeting discussing how we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas produced by one sector of our economy, and y'know what? It's hard! I'm not going to solve this one in heroic fashion, and even as a part of something larger we may only take a small chip off the problem. So we push and nudge and lever what we can and spend quite a lot of time hoping for the best.

I don't quite know where this is going, but I do know that being able to go home (by bike, yeah) and listen to KUEC while playing dumbarse games on my tablet will help somewhat.

I should send you guys some L&P chocolate.

As someone who's working towards a science degree, it's good to hear from another scientist that there's work being done. I've been slogging through this schooling hell for long enough that it's sort of hard to see where I'll be when I graduate. *sigh*

Thanks for the reminder that this misery is temporary and soon (enough) I'll be out there DOING things again. (So you've made my little corner of the world a better place!)

Stasia

I do think that if you focus really hard for a long time on a small thing you can make a difference. And I also think that the "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

I've been reading The Map to Everywhere, and I love it! Pirates, frozen wizards, a cat...

I am a medical device designer. I have helped create effective and cheap cancer treatment devices, and train doctors to perform better surgeries, and worked on a project to design and distribute a female condom for women in developing countries who want to control their reproduction, and have few or no alternatives. It's not enough.
It's not enough to keep me from feeling disheartened and despairing every day.
But I read, and that more than anything else, keeps me hopeful. Being able to visit worlds where justice isn't a hollow concept, where good acts are impactful, where people learn from their mistakes and redemption is a possibility... that is what keeps the darkness at bay.
Thank you, as a producer of hopeful art, for giving me something to anchor to.

My most recent book was "The Book of Kindly Deaths" by Eldritch Black. Very enjoyable.

You didn't do that project for Path did you? I supported an initiative like that!

*hugs* or maybe *tea* but definitely *wombats*

I've been distracting myself with silly urban fantasy like the "Girl in the Box" series (10-book saga).

Yay! Amazon has the first three books in that series on Kindle for FREE!

Well, I've mostly been reading fan fiction lately. I did read The Seventh Bride though, and it was quite good.

Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin
and Shadows Over Baker Street

but the seas will not get any cooler because of it

Not so. I work on software that makes Google's datacenters use a little bit less power, and I also have had to work through a fair bit of depression to be able to do that, and your books are one of the things that's helped keep me happy.

It's a tiny, tiny, thing; a grain of sand on the grain of sand of my contributions. But where there is one grain of sand, there are many.

(My East-German friend talks about some of this as the American mythos of great changes being due to individuals, whereas the East-German mythos that was taught in his history classes was all about great changes being due to movements of masses of people, which is a very different view of things. And rather more optimistic, in this case.)

When I get down, I turn to Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

That's what I came in to suggest. Pratchett has a way with wit and the absurd which makes me forget everything else for a while. Kind of like Ursula's work does for me.

It's pretty awesome.

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