That Darn Moth Again

My friend’s husband was shot to death by police last week in a “misunderstanding” that seems more and more senseless as more of the truth comes to light. The next day a friend from high school hung himself.

Before I found out, I was working on a post about how a Christian should respond to the engagements and marriages of their LGBTQ friends. Maybe I’ll finish writing that sometime, but it seems so small now. Even things like who won the election seem small. Does it really matter who runs the free world when stuff like this can still happen?

It’s true that tragedy has always existed, but we’ve never lived in a world where it’s so easy to ignore. “No one wants to take the time to feel anymore. #fact” someone said on Twitter. They were right. Millions of people on the other side of the globe could be wiped out today, and if we don’t want to hear about it, we can change the channel, webpage, or podcast. If it’s our neighbor, relative, or friend who’s been hurt or killed, we can drown the pain out with music, books, screens, drugs, sex, or any combination. As long as there’s a distraction, we don’t have to feel the pain.

The thing most people don’t want to understand is that pain doesn’t just come with death or tragedy. Every day hurts if you face it head-on. That’s why when I run out of excuses and dead friends and personal tragedies, I’m still drinking. I don’t want to think about how hard it is to live every single day.

This morning I caught myself wishing I could go back to Oak’s last birthday party. It was fun, my whole family was there, and the only responsibility I had was to make sure everybody got a piece of cake. Nothing bad ever happens on those kind of nights.

Get ready. This is where I do that thing I hate of making distinctions between the different kinds of people who write, specifically between someone who writes books and a writer.

Someone who writes books lives in those memories where everything was fine and nothing hurt. Their stories are distractions from real life and they keep you from having to think about why it hurt so much in the first place. I usually think about this in relation to romances, but it holds true for legal thrillers, horror, pretty much any genre. A romance novelist can have six or eight series of books going at the same time. By the end of their career, they can have written a hundred or two hundred or a thousand books.

Writers…I don’t think we can do that. This is where the requisite Holy the Firm reference comes in. A writer’s responsibility is to be the moth, to fly into the candle, and to become the wick. Illuminate all of the pain and unfairness and tragedy, and by contrast, the beautiful things hidden in the darkness. “Which of you want to give your lives and be writers?” Dillard asked her class, trying to make them understand everything it would cost. Hobbies. Distraction. Naivety. Ignorance. Neutrality. Complacency. That feeling of content well-being. Peace. Rest.

This is a long and meandering post and I apologize for that. It’s not going to circle around at the last second and answer the questions raised at the beginning. I’m sorry. I have no idea of the right way to face tragedy or to handle the pain of everyday life. I do know that you can’t ignore it for your own peace of mind. The candle can only hold back the darkness for as long as the wick burns and the wick can only burn for as long as it’s on fire.

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