Thursday, July 17, 2014

Muddled Thoughts

On January 31, 2006, Mr. Snarky and I took a bus from Singapore to Melaka, Malaysia. Eighteen days later, we boarded a boat from Pulau Langkawi to Hat Pakmeng in Thailand. We had arrived in Malaysia knowing little about it beyond what our guidebook told us, and left it grateful for the many wonderful experiences we had and welcoming people we met. Our time in Taman Negara may be some of my favorite days from the entire trip, and we still think back wistfully on the wonderful mall food courts of Kuala Lumpur. And visiting the Boh tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands was an incredible experience for a tea lover like me.

I admit that it is this slight personal connection with Malaysia that made me dig for more information when the first reports of an air disaster involving Malaysian Airlines began to appear in my Twitter feed. As I read the details and it became clear that this disaster was likely no accident, a deeper sense of horror set in.

I will not speculate further on who, exactly, is to blame for the disaster, but I do wonder if it will change anything about the wider tragedy unfolding in the eastern Ukraine. Sadly, I suspect not.

I mourn for all those on board the flight. I mourn also for the people caught in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. and more generally for the people of Malaysia and Ukraine, who are already expressing their grief outside the Dutch embassies in their nations.

For some reason, my brain recalled an offhand tweet I saw a few weeks ago about the book "My Struggle," by Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard. The novel is about Knausgaard's everyday experiences as a father, and the male pundit whose tweet I saw was making joke about how Knausgaard had to resort to writing about something so mundane because Scandinavian countries have removed all of the "usual" sources of plot.

The tweet bothered me at the time, but I didn't really think about why. I just scrolled on. Today, I know why. I was bothered by implication that human life is an interesting subject for a novel only when it is threatened. I do not think Scandinavia has truly eliminated the more usual sources of plot, but if they had, surely that would be something to learn from and perhaps emulate, not something to mock.

Human life is precious, and it is important whether the person living it is starring in a dramatic story or just going about the daily struggle- and yes, it is often a struggle- to live life and perhaps raise children. Maybe if we all got a little bit better at seeing the beauty and meaning in everyday life, we would have fewer people fomenting the conflicts that create news stories with plots that pundit considers acceptable for novels.

This is probably also why I am a bit bothered by the tweets I'm seeing that seem to imply the fact that the plane was carrying many researchers to an AIDS conference increases the tragedy. Yes, it is tragic to lose those researchers. But it is tragic to lose all of the people on board. I do not think we will end up anywhere good if we start considering some lives more valuable than others.

This post has gotten a bit muddled, and I'm not sure it is coming out right. But I needed to write it. I needed to say that life matters, no matter who is living it and no matter how seemingly mundane it is. I want us all to do better, to stop thinking we're more important than that other person over there, whoever that person may be. I want us to stop killing each other, and hurting each other, and screaming at buses full of scared children. I want us to stop throwing mothers in jail because they can't afford child care, and I want us to stop thinking that any trait we can see really tells us much of anything at all about a person's capabilities. I want us to stop letting our fellow humans go hungry, and to stop caring so damn much about who they sleep with or whether their gender matches what is in their pants. I want us to look past all of the things that make us different and see how much we are the same, and feel each other's pain and try to make it better.

I know I won't get most of the things that I want, but perhaps I can at least have a mundane and ordinary life, in which my biggest struggles are around bedtimes and picky eating. If I get that one wish, I will be a very lucky woman. I wish that sort of luck for us all.

1 comment:

  1. To your response about the tweet: i agree completely. It's an old argument in literature that men write about "real" things (war, politics, death) and women write about mundane and unimportant things (love, children, family). See the frequent backlash against Jane Austen and her quiet novels, compared to Tolstoy's grand epics. It's very sad to me that we often cannot see the beauty and drama and pathos of everyday life, and one of my favorite things about the era of the internet is that it gives voice to so many women who speak the truths that I live. It's true that crisis has energy and can dramatically change someone's life forever, but the slow incremental accumulations of life can as well.

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