Confusion, Disaster, and Empathy for the Invisible

Confusion, Disaster, and Empathy for the Invisible

As if the environment were reflecting the chaos and confusion resulting from reactionary extremism, natural disasters have thrown any sense of normality off its footing: multiple hurricanes tore into the southern coastline of the U.S., a massive earthquake shook Mexico, wildfires scorch the American West, and floods have devastated South Asia.

The world is disorienting and disoriented, tilting beneath our feet.

Meanwhile, the more I work on this book, the more vivid the lives of my ancestors seem–their homes, their families, their personalities. I feel like I know them and understand their world not fully but intimately in certain aspects.

Sometimes, it’s as if no time separates me from them, and the sense solidifies that it was not long ago at all that my great grandmother lived on her orderly rural estate, the fertile grounds providing nearly all the family needed: fruits, vegetables, milk, meat. It wasn’t long after that that Uncle Steve escaped from a Hungarian prison after a false conviction of sabotaging the war effort. In his testimony, he talks about hearing shots, the door to his cell swinging open, and shouts of the word freedom.

Writing is solitary and often lonely–perhaps moreso when you are writing about the dead, standing next to them in places that no longer exist, hearing voices only you can hear, loving those you never met and can’t ever see.

And perhaps it’s even more solitary when the outside world seems so confused, so harsh in its judgements, so strange in its forgetfulness.

The challenge is to stand in the eye of the storm, to maintain balance despite the radical instability, to have a singular, unshakable vision amidst the confusion.

To be your own point of reference in a world skewed by lies, illusions, and confusion is to preserve what is human, to mark sanity in a world suffering from dementia, to hold a space that hopefully the country and humanity can return to when it comes to its senses.

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My Great Uncle Stefan
My Great Uncle Stefan