I must confess there’s still a part of me that wishes I would have become journalist and not a designer. I’m an avid media consumer, and I’m really interested in politics and social issues.
However, this interest of mine can sometimes affect my mood heavily, especially when I feel that I’m not contributing enough to have a better world.
I think I’m pretty fortunate to have people around me who are doing really positive things to pursue change in many areas. From becoming vegan to becoming a teacher in southern Mexico, my friends and family are awesome people who inspire me to do more each day.
I am surrounded by individuals whose civic engagement is admirable – and yet the one thing everyone has in common is that we all believe we’re not doing enough. It’s like the more we try to help and the more we know, the more we feel like what we do is too small to make a real dent in the world.
This at times can get pretty unhealthy because we start obsessing about everything we do and we don’t do, to the point that it leaves us feeling hopeless.
I started reading a book by Paul Auster called “Timbuktu”. The story is told from a dog’s perspective, Mr. Bones, whose owner is a homeless man who’s become ill. Mr. Bones is struggling to accept the fact that his owner is dying and he’ll soon have to live in a world where he no longer exists.
The novel has several really powerful moments that have brought me to tears, and this line in particular hit a spot about the negative feelings I’ve been having about civic engagement:
“If you keep your eyes open, you’ll always be lost.”
I’m right there with you, Mr. Bones.
But what is there to do? Should I close my eyes and pretend I don’t see what’s going on around me? I don’t know, maybe that would bring me a lot more happiness in the short term, but I still can’t come to terms with being a happy oblivious person. It might be just too little too late for me to do that.
I listened to this interview with Paul Watson*, a photojournalist who won a Pulitzer for a very violent photograph he took in Somalia. During the interview, he talks about feeling guilty, the ghosts that haunt him, and just an overall feeling of responsibility and heavy weight that he still has for publishing the picture. When asked if he regrets taking it, he said he does, but he feels that he knows he was the one who had to take it. He said he prefers having a meaningful life rather than a happy one.
He chose to keep his eyes open, and he’ll always be lost.
I think I am generally good at keeping my civic engagement positive and non-judgemental, and even though I feel I’ve hit a rut of negative feelings, I am going to try to be kind with myself and invite people around me to do the same thing.
Feeling lost is ok, it’s part of accepting there are things that are out of our control. However, feeling despair and obsessing about it is not healthy. We can’t help anyone if we don’t help ourselves.
Stay healthy my fellow civilians. Be strong and keep your eyes open.
*Note: Paul Watson’s interview is super interesting, however I must warn you that it heavily describes the picture he took and it might trigger some people. Please keep that in mind if you choose to listen to it, and I would recommend that you don’t look for the picture. Hearing about it was hard enough.