“I’m not sure I enjoy living through all this history…”— the resounding feelings of everyone collectively.
I don’t like to write when I have to pry the words from my mind. Usually, if I have nothing wise or witty to say, I just try to refrain from leaving paper-trail proof that I, too, am sometimes seized by writer’s block.
But this isn’t writer’s block.
We’re by now all aware of what happened yesterday at Capitol Hill. As a writer of dystopian fiction (set in a post-Collapse America, nonetheless), I’ve spent a lot of time imagining what a dark future might look like following an inexplicable American war. Five years ago, I wrote this passage:
“The word ‘civilized’ floated distantly through Ander’s mind, followed closely by images of the blasts; tiny explosive splashes rippled across the landscape. It had come on so fast and so violently that there was no time to prepare, no time to register—no time at all. 𝑶𝒓 𝒎𝒂𝒚𝒃𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒔, he reflected. 𝑱𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝒏𝒐 𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒊𝒕 𝒘𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒖𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚 𝒈𝒆𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒃𝒂𝒅. Those months Before, people were angry—angry with a brutality that had grown ferocious for its years of repression.”
Little did I know.
But anyone who knows me knows that I believe wholeheartedly in the power of optimism. I think we have to envision a future built on the possibility of our greatness in order to set goals that can be reached. I think that by living in the wake of our ancestors, only ever looking back at their accomplishments and idolizing them–not as people like ourselves, but as myths–we give ourselves permission to shirk our own responsibility. We will never accomplish what they did, so let’s marvel and aspire to build something half as great.
Over time, that just leaves us standing in the sewers, bathed in the shadow of statues.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrestled with the belief that the greatest age of Man had long since come to pass, and that history–though cyclical–descended downward into darkness. We see it in the tales of Númenor. We see it in our own tales of Atlantis. We look back and long for days we never knew, even knowing that this moment is the one to which they would eventually lead.
This moment, though, is the one we have to work with. As a mother (a pregnant one, at that), it’s hard to look around and not worry for the future my children will face… but their future is no more certain than my own, than the futures or the fates of anyone who has ever come before. They have been born for this moment, exactly as we have. Shaped by our world, by the consequences of the world that has come before, inheriting privilege and pain in varying amounts with worries that are specific to this moment, we have been forged to fit this mysterious lock. We are the mechanisms that will build every moment to come.
Take comfort knowing that, for you, there is still time. The sun still shines upon our faces. The rain still mists upon our skin. The joy of deep, belly laughter can be heard, or more importantly, felt. Children still grow tall in the summer. Wind still sweeps through trees. We can still be moved to tears by love, and music, and art, and touch. We can still make beautiful things. We can still turn toward the future. We can still choose individual and collective greatness.
This land is your land. This land is my land. From sea to shining sea.