Why we write at times like this

Men_reading_the_Koran_in_Umayyad_Mosque,_Damascus,_Syria
How can anyone, after watching the horrific events of this past week, this past month, this past year, think that putting imaginary worlds down on a blank page could have any meaning?

I will tell you.

It is precisely in times like this, precisely in times when all fabric of humanity seems to be unraveling, when we are struggling to make sense of actions that seem senseless, when we are determined to overcome fear and uncertainty, that we need to write.

Because it is precisely at these times that we need to read.

Because it is stories that most concisely encapsulate our human condition. It is stories that show us that there is good in the ogre; there is beauty in the ugly duckling; and that there is no place like home. It is stories that show us that no matter how awful or black the world may seem, there is some light in it. There is good behind the scenes, there are those attempting to right wrongs, there are those who will fight for the underdog, the downtrodden, the ones left behind.

It is times like this that story becomes even more important.

It is times like this, when the television becomes a weapon, delivering a slew of hate and violence until we just can’t take it any more, that we must unplug, turn it off, drop out and open a book. Who hasn’t lost themselves in a good book when life got just way too overwhelming? Who hasn’t sought solace in a favorite story, the one almost memorized, the go-to imaginary world of prose or poetry that softens the blows, that reminds us that yes, everything will be all right.

It may seem frivolous to pull out the laptop. It may seem even silly to again enter that world you are creating, to create more myths, more monsters, more heroes. But it is those monsters that we can slay. It is those heroes that we can root for. And reading these stories will help us to enter into our own narrative with a fresh perspective, give our mind a little space to process all that it has seen, all the unanswerable questions and perplexing nastiness.

So go. Write your stories. Write your poems. Work on the ideas that are playing in your head. Don’t try to imagine how things in this world can get worse or get better. Control the world you are creating. And when you come out of that world, this world might seem a little more manageable. You may have some answers, some solutions that you hadn’t thought of before. It’s a slim hope, but we need that.

We need to hope that the dragon will be vanquished. That traffic stops won’t be a death sentence. That scuffles won’t turn into vigils. That people will not be blown up as they pray. That some sense will prevail, as we write the most far-fetched story we can think of, the one in which color doesn’t matter.

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