Write, do art, save the world

Three goals for 2019

My goals for 2019 are: write, draw (and paint), and save the world. And I’m serious about all three.

Write and draw, of course, are modest goals. I achieved them this very morning — done and dusted.

The third one will take some effort. I might even have to put down the remote and get up off the couch.

The problem with saving the world — aside from all the obvious things — is the world is hard to reach. You can’t get at all the world. I want to save the children starving in Yemen. But I can’t reach them. The thirteen-year-old girl in Calcutta being beaten to death by her 30-year-old husband is … she’ll be dead by the time I get on a plane, get to India, and find her.

The people that need saving who are out of my reach may not be out of your reach. You may be able to hear the girl in trouble next door.

Yes. It’s your task to help her.

If I hear her it’s my job to check and see if there’s anything I can do.

Some people won’t be helped. There’s a man in Cleveland who’s been drinking himself to death for most of his adult life. He’s filthy, he stinks, he’s in an alley dying of hypothermia. If you offer to help him he’ll tell you to fork off. He’s a fully autonomous person in charge of his life.

You’re response can only be “Forking off now, Sir!” But you must offer to help.

I’ll offer because saving the world in on my to-do list.

I don’t live in Calcutta or even in Cleveland. I have to work on what I can reach.

I can reach with writing. I may even be able to reach with art. And I can reach with my body. There’s suffering near me a few blocks over.

Now why in holy hell should you save the world? You may need saving someday and the world may not come to save you. The world doesn’t owe you saving even if you spend every waking moment trying to save it.

Fixing things that are broken and helping broken people fix themselves ups your chances for reciprocation but it doesn’t guarantee it.

So why?

It feels good.

I’m not kidding.

It’s nice when someone is grateful. That’s always nice, don’t get me wrong, but the gratitude isn’t the payoff.

Everyone has suffered. You’ve lost people and pets dear to you. You’ve had financial losses. You’ve been in relationship or jobs you didn’t like you’ve had disappointing news. You’ve had moments of terror.

You know what that stuff is like.

There is another suffering that, for most people, is harder to imagine.

You’re arrested and have no money and no way to get any. You are entirely helpless in a cold and hateful criminal justice system.

You lost your job and in panic, you search and fail to find another. Then you lose your apartment. Then you use up the three days you’re allowed at the homeless shelter. Then you sleep in alleys in the rain, the wind, the cold, or the heat.

I can imagine it, but not fully. Those things have never happened to me. What I feel about it is a pale echo of what it’s like to experience.

Now imagine you have the power to relieve some of that stark suffering — just a little, perhaps, but some.

It feels good. It’s not a valid reason to do it, but it is a side benefit of lessening the suffering of others.

Working to relieve the suffering of others may not work. People may take advantage of you. They may be ungrateful. They may turn away from you and continue on a path of self-destruction.

Do the work anyway. You’ll never regret it.


Check out my writing on Amazon: www.susanbcogan.com
See my art (such as it is) on Instagram @mrscogan