Sit down tonight
To teach me a lesson for being so optimistic about ending my summer hiatus, the universe has served up a big dose of no-napping, sleep-regressing, teething baby, so I got precious little writing time in the past couple of weeks. Graham was also away on one of his twice-a-year business trips, and his mom came to stay with Rowan and me, but because Ro’s bed was moved into our room and that's also where I write, my usual naptime writing routine didn't work out, either. Instead, we had some adventures, went exploring, and spent an afternoon at the aquarium, where Ro marveled at the fish in the viewing tunnel. On Sunday, we went up north of the city to visit family friends, who had built a new outdoor kitchen and lounge area that they wanted to show off. It was the first chilly day of the season, so we were able to bundle into blankets in front of the fire and be cozy. Snuggled up with Rowan, surrounded by people whose company we enjoy, I felt very tender-hearted and so lucky.
This life I've made, and the people in it, have brought me so much joy.
Because of Rowan, because she loves going out and interacting with people, I'm spending more time out among my neighbors (a whole city of neighbors) than I once did. I talk to more people; I'm more social than I've been since I was in university. Overwhelmingly, the people I meet are friendly, welcoming, and kind. They, too, are people willing to talk to strangers, people who want their kids to feel wanted by their communities. To an extent, this is a self-selecting group, and I know I'm not encountering everyone, but even so, the collection of people in my life these days is diverse in both interests and backgrounds. At the same time, my city and both of my countries (if not the world at large) are embroiled in political situations that seem destined to bring things down around our ears. In the political sphere, people are so often vindictive, isolationist, selfish, and hateful. As a strong proponent that all politics (and economy, and culture) is nothing more or less than people, it's really difficult for me to hold these situations in my head alongside my everyday experiences of the people around me.
I wonder a lot about where that disconnect comes from, how our experience of one another has evolved into what it is now, and how easy it is to end up assuming the worst of everyone when you only see the worst parts of them. I can very easily name the days in my own life that have changed my course. I could have had a completely different life, with completely different people. And even on a larger scale, I can name a a few of the things that got us where we are: the way we interact online, for one thing, has become a sticking point in the separation between ourselves on “issues” and ourselves as people. 9/11 contributed a lot to our fear of each other, which is always more acute in environments where we don’t get to know one another and have no social barriers to voicing our worst thoughts, things we’d never say to someone’s face (and, unlike some, I do think that filter between our thoughts and our words and actions matters a great deal). Those seemingly enormous things all came to be because of individual decisions, moments, an idea in the dark that was written down instead of being forgotten.
I’m rambling a bit, because my thoughts are a little scattered, but really, when I think about how small the initial factors of all these things are. The subject line of this e-mail is from Matilda: the Musical, and the song it’s from is the opening number, entitled Miracle. It's a little disingenuous; the song goes on at length among children whose misdeeds and misbehavior are brushed away because they're "miracles," but then, near the end, the doctor delivering Matilda herself chimes in:
Every life is unbelievably unlikely
The chances of existence
Almost infinitely small
The most common thing in life is life
And yet every single life
Every new life
Is a miracle!
And it's true, really. I've been present for a lot of births, and while there's a little bit of truth in the rest of the song, too, that moment is incredible. So many things have to come together in precise, unlikely to make a person, and yet it happens so many times every single minute.
When I'm feeling a little bit adrift or hopeless about how the world seems, I often end up wondering about how it got here, and those moments seem huge and unchangeable. But they were also only moments, choices tumbling over one another, and it's not only the hurtful decisions that can snowball that way. It's not likely, but really, nothing is. Those of us who want things to be better have to keep choosing to both believe it can be and to make it so. A collection of unlikely moments make a life; a collection of unlikely lives make the world.
A newsletter on life, current events, media & culture, and living in wonder amidst it all.