“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
― E.B. White
I stumbled across this quote a few years ago during a visit to my mother. It was posted somewhere in her community art room, and I read it in passing. But the words followed me out, and prompted me to both look them up again, and revisit them regularly in my thoughts. E.B. White’s words nicely encapsulate so much of my inner conflict. For example, my struggles with figuring out what to post here, and on a larger scale, what to do with my life.
I find great joy in the little details in the world around me. I can get lost in the sparkle of ice on a branch or a fence, or the unexpected grace of shadows on a stairway. I often attempt to capture the beauty in photos, with varying degrees of success. I am a collector of images, and it pleases me to sort and categorize them, and share them here. A group of leaves here, an assortment of doors there, a selection of silhouettes yonder. Hell, I’ve even posted photos of storm drains and the peeling paint on dumpsters. I find beauty and comfort in seeing patterns, and putting them together.
Beyond that, the world offers a multitude of sources of enjoyment for me. I love food, I love to make things with my hands. I love art. I love music. I love reading and watching movies. I love humor and playing with words. I love the structure and richness of the world’s languages. I love doing scientific research, and finding the beauty in patterns. And I really, really love to travel. I love to spend time with my family and friends, and I love to spend time by myself doing things that I love, or thinking about doing things that I love. There is enough passion in me for so much beauty, so much wonder for the world’s amazing variety and order, that I could fill a hundred blogs (and I mean blogs, not just posts) if only I had the time to do so.
On the other hand, there is so much ugliness in the world that I can’t ignore. News reports of police shootings. Stories of the plight of refugees. Data reflecting the threats to our planet’s equilibrium through climate change. Systemic racism and misogyny and homophobia and xenophobia and so many other biases. Horrific acts perpetrated by governments and individual acting on their behalf, in blindness to the systemic biases in the system and the damage they inflict. Horrific acts being perpetrated by individuals, often growing out of the collective illness of our society. There is so much societal injustice that needs to be addressed, and I regularly feel the call to address it. How can I sit back and write silly posts about pants when there are people literally dying in the street? What good are my sets of colorful leaf photos to a world in which hundreds of thousands of displaced people want nothing more right now than food, shelter and safety for their families? If I’m going to be writing or posting, shouldn’t I be putting my energy into addressing the injustices of the world?
Further, frankly, writing about difficult topics is…difficult. While I have ventured into social justice topics in my writing, such forays take a lot out of me. I want to be able back my claims with data and sources. Moreover, I want to choose my words with care, lest I inadvertently do harm to the very cause which I am hoping to contribute to. I worry about provoking backlash, both from those who disagree with me, and from those who largely agree with me but find fault with my words or understanding. I am flawed and learning and growing, and I am prone to mistakes.
It has been this tension within me, the pull to share posts reflecting my enjoyment of the world against the pull to lend my voice to improving the world, that largely kept me from posting or doing anything creative at all for many months. I wanted to post light things, felt like I should post heavy things, and in the end generally posted nothing.
I have come around the realization that I really want to do both things, and that I can do both. They may not be equal in measure, but I am giving myself permission to express myself creatively and also, at least occasionally, write about topics that I consider deeply important. I can feed both of the desires, and both can help me to grow, and grow stronger.
This essay is my first entry in #52essays2017, a project to write and post an essay each week this year. To read more about the project, visit Vanessa Martir’s Blog.
13 thoughts on “planning the day”
I look forward to reading.
Thank you, Sarah!
So aptly expressed. It takes courage to write publicly about issues of concern especially in this climate of the “us and them.” My personal lack of expressing these concerns is that I keep looking for the”we.” I am still searching.
I think I know what you mean, about the “us and them.” I have often felt that I don’t have as much tendency identify with an “us” as many have. I’m not big on nationalism or team sports, for example. And I like to think of the “us” as including all of humanity.
How beautifully expressed what I feel but don’t have the words or talent to express, I like you, do collect the sayings of those do know how to express being a thinking human, “Act always as if the future of the universe depends on what you do, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes a difference ” Buddha
Thank you for your kind words, Dora. I love the Buddha quote, too.
I am having a lot of the same kind of doubts and concerns. But You should know that both types of your posts lighten my day. Just the idea that there is someone out there with your huge talent and capacity for both mirth and depth of thought and research is like a life buoy in a sea of shit.
Looking forward to each and every post.s
Mary, this is a really touching thing to read. Seriously, you made me cry. Thank you so much.
I think we all need both. The passion, love, and appreciation for silliness and beauty allows us to contend with the hard stuff without drowning in hopelessness or despair.
Yes, that’s it, Kyla. We need to be reminded of our joy in the world to help us get through the crap.
I know what you mean, I have occasionally blogged about Social Justice issues myself (very occasionally) and it can be so difficult to word to not inadvertently do harm. I think it’s important to address issues but finding a balance between serious and mirth can be difficult at times.
Thanks so much for your comment, Katie Marie. It sounds like you understand my worries about writing on tough topics.
It can be difficult, it’s lovely to see that something being difficult doesn’t put people off.