Love and Caring in a World of Senseless Tragedies
In early November I was hit by a car. At the time, I was walking down a residential street in the early evening, wearing an orange jacket and crossing a well-lit intersection. I was thrown onto the entrance ramp of a highway running down the side of the Hudson River, from The Bronx into Manhattan.
The two women who witnessed the 89-year-old driver slam into me were both medical professionals. They got me off the road, and one stayed with me until I was safely tucked away in an ambulance. I got away with some bad bruises and a displaced bone in my arm, which required surgery and the insertion of a plate to hold the bone together.
In the aftermath, I learned that a member of my extended family — whom I never met — was killed by a car, along with his fiancé, in California. The young couple were only discovered under some dense brush after someone found their dead dog in a creek bed near the sight of a car accident.
Within days of hearing about that tragedy, another friend told me that she was mourning the passing of a 24-year-old nephew whose car had crashed into a tree and burst into flames.
All of this raises an ancient, haunting question: how is it that some of us manage to live relatively undamaged lives over the course of decades — and others die young due to awful circumstances? And there’s another question that goes with that one like a monster fraternal twin: how is it that some humans and animals are subjected to the indifference, carelessness, or absolute viciousness of other human beings, sometimes for years?
There is no fairness about any of this, as far as I can tell.
Do I feel lucky? Incredibly so. All the more, because at the end of this week, two nieces and I are driving north to spend a warm, undoubtedly hilarious, delicious Christmas with the rest of our family. And while that’s going on, I imagine the families of these three deceased young people will be forced to navigate extremely difficult emotions and conversations.
How do we move forward in the best possible ways, with these mind-boggling differences in how lives unfold and eventually end? There are a few answers that sustain me — none of which are original or novel. And yet it helps to remember and articulate them.
One relates to what I’ve experienced as I’ve slowly begun to recover from my own accident. Friends and family have surrounded me with incredible layers of love and generosity. And I believe that one of the best ways of counteracting life’s senseless aspects is to care for the people we love — as well as strangers, wildlife, and our planet — with kindnesses large and small.
For me, another answer involves writing pieces of fiction that illuminate conditions present in the world today. That’s the case with my sci-fi novel about the media industry, “The Juice,” and some of my screenplays.
In the months to come, I also plan to put more of my writing efforts into exposing ways in which we can recognize false or warped information disseminated in media. It’s my belief that we need to teach healthy media-usage habits in schools. And those of us who are older need to find tools that will help us break out of the ingrained habit of seeking out news reports that merely corroborate our ingrained opinions.
But most of all, the answer involves thankfulness — for the extraordinary acts of courage, positive forms of creativity, and service to others. And I am grateful to all of you who read these words, and so many other words that I tap out on my keyboard. When I raise a glass to toast in the new year, that’s what I’ll be thinking about.