We Cannot Grow Numb to the World’s Pain

Admit it: the world is a messed-up place. There is pain all around us. And there seems to be no end in sight.

Advil Photo
Photo credit: An Nguyen (Creative Commons)

Just pick an issue:

  • Sex trafficking
  • Extreme poverty
  • Lack of clean water
  • Teen suicide
  • Poor education
  • Bad economy

It does not surprise me that we have grown numb. That we have turned a blind eye to the baby infected with HIV, to the lonely beggar on the street.

It does not amaze me that we would turn to self-medication and busyness to crowd out the discomfort of a world in pain. But that is the one thing we cannot do. We must avoid numbness at all costs.

We cannot turn away

We cannot imagine a better world without acting. We cannot merely dream of the solution; we must be the solution.

If we are given to fantasy, we will wind up up like Segismundo from Life is a Dream — unsure of which is the real world and which is the dream. (Hint: the real world is the one with unimaginable pain and suffering.)

The only realistic solution is to face reality — however hard that may be.

We are the problem

I love G.K. Chesterton’s response to the question one gentleman asked him:

What’s wrong with the world?

To paraphrase, Chesterton replied, “I am.”

The world is filled with darkness and wracked with pain. It has been infested with the sin of selfishness. Centuries of greed have yielded a crop of disease, famine, and loneliness.

You cannot turn a blind eye to the sickness inside of you. Well, you can. But it won’t make the problem disappear. Of course, this is not the end of the story.

There is hope

Cynics tell you there is no reason to hope in redemption, to believe in a happy ending. But I believe in another story, a “deeper magic,” as C.S. Lewis’ Aslan would say.

I believe in hope — that there is purpose to pain and reason for suffering. No, I do not think we can understand or explain away the tragedies in our lives. But I believe that even these things shall pass. I believe in Something More.

And this hope motivates my art and compels me to act.

It invites me to not turn a blind eye to the pain the world, but to usher in the promise of a better future now. To announce a season of life and hope where death and despair once reigned.

The world is waiting…

This may seem off-topic for a blog about writing and social media and the occasional call-to-action about making a difference. But I don’t think so.

We storytellers understand this meta-narrative of hope and loss better than most. We are in touch with the broken parts of life more than others. And our artist’s eyes see the coming redemption over the horizon. Perhaps, even before others can see it.

So why am I sharing this?

We have a responsibility

To open our mouths. To move, to speak, to act.

It begins now. People are waiting. To find hope and experience life to the full. Maybe for the first time.

I don’t know what this means for you. But I hope it means that you’ll think twice before turning on the television tonight and slipping into a coma of self-indulgence.

I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty, but I do want to make you feel. If you can’t get riled up about this, then there may be cause for great concern. You may already be numb.

Anyone who’s suffered a major injury before can tell you that’s bad news. Next is shock. Then, if you don’t address the wound, amputation. And who go can through life with an amputated heart?

Apparently, a lot of people. But I hope you won’t.

*Photo credit: An Nguyen (Creative Commons)