A coworker and I were chatting about our chosen forms of entertainment – TV for her, stories and movies for me. She’s obsessed with law enforcement shows. Law & Order. CSI. NCIS. I asked what she gets out of watching them. The bad guys get caught, is the main thing. She can’t stand ambiguity at the end of an episode or season. The detectives and prosecutors care. They always want to do what’s right. They protect their people. They protect strangers. They protect not-so-good guys from guys who are worse. These shows are populated by brave, ace marksmen with superior intuition and real-time forensics labs. Nothing very bad happens unless an actor is leaving the show.
She asked how I “can stand” to read so much.
By Jean-Louis Vandevivère from Paris, France
(Madagascar, Nationale 7) [CC-BY-2.0
via Wikimedia Commons
First of all…that question doesn’t even make sense to me. Secondly, everybody has a hole inside of them. Sometimes it’s simple, one longing that drowns out anything else we might want. Sometimes it’s rippled and tiered, stacks of desires and needs. We cater to this absence inside of us, either working with or around it. Drop tokens and symbols in with the hope that they’ll fill it. Cop attitude and try to ignore it or keep moving like we’ll somehow lose it. Sometimes the pit is so vast it seems impossible that it could be contained inside of one body of flesh.
I’m doing alright (yes, that’s how I spell it). I get frustrated and sad and enraged, but the edges of the gaps inside of me run fairly close to each other. I’m not desperately in need of anything, but I’m always hungry. And this is where the stories come in. Why do I read so much? Because it’s the opposite of a burden for me.
When I need adventure, I have stories. When I need a mysterious happening to shut away the rest of the world, I have stories. When I need proof of friendship and tear-jerking laughter, I have stories. Books and poems, movies and comics.
If I was born in another age, another country or another city, I might not have these things. If I had a hole inside of me that burned for something else, stories might not do much to soothe me. But I'm lucky.
Other people have different wells inside of them, and I have to constantly remind myself of this. Other people don't have it so easy. I have to be calm with my coworker when things around us are disorderly. I have to be aware of my brother’s sensitivity to a certain kind of criticism. I need to remember the friends who do not just have gaps, but voids that can open suddenly and try to swallow them whole from the inside.
It’s easy to lose myself inside of stories, to turn my back on the outside world. It’s even easier when I’m writing than when I’m reading. Technology almost makes it difficult to stay connected, because now it’s so (comparatively) difficult to pick up a phone or meet in person when a text or thumbs up takes only a matter of clicks. But it’s important, especially when that contact can feed the absence in other people. With yesterday’s news, I’m fixated on this. Robin Williams touched so many people in such intense ways, and that was the public – an audience – from a distance. But he fed the needs that exist in so many people – for laughter, for wisdom, for whimsy, for kindness. He was unbelievably gifted, and generous in how he shared his gift. It seems selfish not to look up, to look around, and to reach out, in our own smaller way.