When do we stop? When can we stop? When do we allow ourselves to stop and feel shock and grief and anger and injustice and turmoil and the deep truth that something is wrong? When something happens that might give us some perspective on what is truly important in life, we have to keep on working on “non-important” stuff? Because our lives are filled with important “non-important” stuff?
I woke up this morning, and my roommate told me that UT is on lockdown because someone opened fire in the PCL library and has now died from self-inflicted wounds. The police are looking for a possible second suspect. Her classes have been cancelled, she can’t go to campus, but she’s probably going to bike somewhere else to get her work done.
My gut and mind are full of dread. I immediately jump on Twitter to see what’s being said. There are only maybe 5 tweets in this morning’s stream among design links, promo tweets, regular Twitter conversation. Makes sense; not everyone is in Austin, and not even everyone in Austin needs to care, or needs to Tweet about it. Or would even know.
If my roommate weren’t a current Longhorn, I would probably still be oblivious to what’s happening fifteen blocks away from me, since I don’t tap into the local news on a regular basis.
My gut and mind are full of dread. Part of me wants to stay paralyzed…but another part of me has a to-do list to get to, client work to complete, homework to get a jump on. I’ll stay conflicted, even as I know after this blog post, I’ll suppress the shock and move back into the day-to-day tasks that need to be done. The part of me who wants to stop will still be crying “foul play” in my heart.
Just as it did on 9/11. If that was a time to stop, it would have been then, right? Did ALL of New York City stop? It would have been okay to, in the city itself. In Houston, we could feel it, but we weren’t there. After dinner the night of 9/11, my mom told me stories of her co-workers (from the NY office of her company) who had been on the subway and then come up with the stream of masses after the trains stopped running. He walked two hours to get home. My brother had the news on in the living room and that surreal footage of the planes hitting the towers looping again and again.
And then I made the decision to retreat to my bedroom to finish an AP English essay. In my head I knew that my teacher wouldn’t take 9/11 as an excuse for a late essay, and in my heart I knew that something was weird (wrong?) about that.
When my grandma died, I got a week off of work to be in Houston with my family, and then I came back. And even then, I wondered if people thought I had taken too much time off. Isn’t that stupid and shameful—that anyone could possibly put a time limit on grief?
In one way, we have to keep moving, because that’s how you survive. In another way, we have to acknowledge the necessity of stopping when we need to stop. I’ve literally “worked through” rough patches of my life: working and going about my business as if nothing has happened. To this day, I don’t know if whether what I was doing was coping (only way I could have survived) or suppressing (repressing feelings that will come back to haunt me/bite me in the future).
This is a tangent, but possibly related. In my design theory class, we’ve been discussing information overload and the role of technology in our lives today. Has information overload numbed our senses of awe, surprise, deep feeling? Does everything start to feel the same level of blandness?
I also think the role of technology is all tied in together with our now quicker pace of life and our now lessened sense of community today. We’ve almost gotten too big for our own good. Where do you find community these days? If you have community, and tragedy strikes one person in that community, that community stops until it’s ready to move on. What happens when we don’t have community? What happens when we’re looking in on other communities, want to feel for them as part of them, but cannot?
What if nothing strikes us anymore? Are we losing some part of our humanity because we have to? Because if we felt the pain of every accident, tragedy, death, violence, we’d become overwhelmed? So we build up walls?
When some big violence happens here in the U.S., I always think about people who live in the Israel/Palestine/Gaza region (among others), where fear of bombings and attacks are constant and become part of the day-to-day fabric of life. What does it mean and feel like to live with that kind of fear&uncertainty, and how do you overcome or cope or work with that? I don’t know what the question is here. In the past, I’ve wondered if the news overblows the incidents that happen here, but now I’m wondering if maybe we’re just really fortunate that shootings, lockdowns, and bombings aren’t just daily occurrence—that they warrant that kind of news coverage. Maybe our news cycle (with all its fault) is still one way of “stopping”—gorge yourself on news media surrounding a tragedy, stop and talk about it with the people around you, keep up with minute-to-minute updates, so that you can try to feel the fact that something is abnormal about today.
And then an hour, a day, a week later, the blip will be gone. It’s the injustice the life, the necessity of life, the cycle of life—that a person dies, and things WILL go back to normal. Part of me can’t stand it, part of me is grateful for it, and the rest of me is resigned to the fact that that is just how things happen.
My gut and mind are full of dread.