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12

Good/Bad

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It's gotten to the point where I don't watch the news anymore. I can't. I won't. It depresses me, frightens me, maddens me. The downside is that I rarely know what's going on in the world, but sometimes this seems like the better alternative.

September 11 was a terrifying day. It may not have seemed completely real to me from the safety of my college dorm room on the other side of the country--bodies falling, burning, this was the stuff of fiction, of movies. I still find myself trying to block out the overwhelming disturbia that sets in every time I'm reminded of the events of that day; that people purposely brought those towers down. Earlier this summer I attended a small short-film festival, and it took until about halfway through the longest of the films to realize that it--following the stories of a flight attendant on a plane, a businessman in an office, and a firefighter in the city--was about 9/11. The sickening disturbia set in like it always does, such that the film's final scenes--the flight attendant crying and whispering to air traffic control about their low altitude, the firefighter's concerned glance to the sky overhead, and the businessman's look of both shock and solemnity as he looked out the office window to see a plane headed straight for him--have not let me go.

I'm not actually recommending avoiding watching the news. It's a wimpy and irresponsible thing to do. We have to be in the world. Since I've been thinking about The Giver (Game-changing Books), remember that the Elders' stance was that it was better to shield people from the pains and sorrows of the world, even if it meant the people could experience and feel nothing...even the good, wonderful, and lovely. Or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a movie about a process that allows people to erase their memories, particularly of other people. I love watching our protagonist, who's had a bad breakup, fight to reverse the process once he's realized that if it means losing all memory of the person he once loved, it's not worth ridding himself of the heart-wrenchingly painful parts of their relationship.

The fact is, there is good all around us. It might be harder to see, it's certainly not publicized as often or to the same extent, but it is there. And even though each day something in the world can be counted on to bring me down, something else equally reliable is the rate at which something--some kindness, some action, some thing of beauty--inspires me. May those moments carry us through. And may we never forget.

 

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11

Eternal Sunshine

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I exchange Christmas cards with my third grade teacher, and in this most recent card, Mrs. Pace mentioned how much she enjoyed reading 'Schooled.' It always fills me with relief to hear praise from people who are actually mentioned in the book, and I was struck by one comment she made in particular. She said she was impressed by how well I was able to recall not only events from my childhood, but also the feelings those events inspired. It's not that I don't believe everyone has that same ability, but I have definitely come to believe that my temperament and disposition as an introvert, a writer, and a relatively sentimental person helps me in this regard. It's easy for me to look back and pinpoint the events, however minor, that shaped me and my perceptions, just as I can tell you right away when an event or circumstance in my life today is one I will eventually write about and put in a book.

It's a knack that in many ways I consider a gift, although I suppose the downside is that I am perhaps more sensitive than I would like to be. Meaning that sometimes I wish events or memories wouldn't impact me as much as they do, or that I could at least view them with less care and concern--particularly when the event involves how others (or how I assume others) perceive me. That I care too much is probably a weakness that many writers battle, but it ultimately helps the craft. Besides, I'd rather be plagued by a sea of memories and feelings, however unpleasant some of them might be, than to have forgotten the majority of my early experiences. It reminds me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a great film by the way, where the main character (after choosing to have all memories of his ex erased) must fight to stop the process once he realizes that ridding his mind of the bad memories of their relationship is not worth also eliminating the good ones. It's a movie that makes me think about love and loss, risk and reward (or not), but ultimately one that resonates with the part of me that draws strength and insight (and dynamite book chapters) from even the most unfortunate of experiences. So here's to remembering, feeling, and writing. And also to keeping in touch with your third grade teacher.

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