Our reaction to public tragedy is not what it should be.
Is there something to the idea that feeling bad about others’ misfortunes makes us feel better about ourselves? In today’s world we have started a new form of communal mourning that is very public and perhaps subject to our human tendency to jump on the bandwagon.
Of course feeling sympathy and empathy for the loss of others is a vital component to our humanity, but do we take it too far when we have endless newscasts showing the faces of our fellow human beings in their moments of tragedy? It eerily resembles our desire to look when we come upon a gruesome accident.
Why do we look? What feelings do we get that are beneficial to us?
I do embrace the new style of public, communal mourning and feel that gatherings and small memorials in public places, often at the scene of an accident, help us remember we are all in this together and we have all lost something valuable.
But, on a day to day basis, we live in a society where we routinely retreat into our individual households each night to be alone, safe, and warm, and with all our material comforts and all of the latest toys and gadgets around us in abundance.
In spite of this, we still long for contact with other human beings and look for ways to connect with others even if at a distant and superficial level. So we watch the news intently and openly post our personal trivia and life events on Facebook and other social media. In this way we are not alone, but in many other ways we still are.
But once the bright lights are turned off or taken away to shine on another, newer tragedy, do we even remember the victims and survivors of the previous tragedy?
How many of us have seen the faces and read the names of those who died from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy?
How many of us are reminded to think daily about all those in New Jersey who lost their homes and communities and have no access to medical care or even to their life-sustaining prescriptions?
Where are their children sleeping each night and how are they keeping warm?
Do we know the names of anyone who lost everything in the Tsunami that happened the day after Christmas in 2004 or in the floods and devastation of Hurricane Katrina?
Do we know the names of the families and children in refugee camps in Syria who were just bombed and blown to smithereens?
Do we know the names of any of the child soldiers in Sudan and other countries who are traumatized, brainwashed, and forced into combat?
Do we know the name of the latest child shot dead on an urban street in America as a side casualty of an ongoing gang war?
If we want to truly be aware and grieve together as a society we cannot confine it only to our own small part of the world.
We must look around at us and see what us going on all over the world, beyond the blinders we wear every day. We may think we are good and compassionate because we can discuss the latest victims in knowing terms, perhaps even mentioning a name or two. We can feel sorrow from a safe distance when we look at the faces posted on the internet.
But how many others do we not see? How many other names do we not know? How many others do we not really care about? Isn’t there a difference between expressing our sadness and sympathies and actually doing something meaningful to correct the situation?
We may send cards and flowers and post lovely pictures of candles on Facebook, but have we taken a newly homeless family into our hearts, or even our homes? Do we still care after the 15 minutes of fame have passed? What are we really doing except taking the easy way out, expressing a sympathy that is empty without action?
As it says in the Bible, “Faith without works is dead.” What work are we doing today beyond sending flowers and sighing?
Lori Crockett: I am interested in helping others grow personally, emotionally and spiritually into happier, healthier, more connected human beings. I am also passionate about conservation, ecology and wildlife preservation. I love poetry, gardening, reading, photography and all things related to the natural world and the Spirit. I spend my days writing, reading, focusing on my own spirituality and studying the religions of the world. I write about spirituality, healing, recovery, nature and the environment. I post a new meditation each day onto my blog, Body, Heart, Mind, and Soul: A Daily Meditation, which focuses on living more mindfully, more spiritually and more peacefully in today’s world.
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Assistant Ed: J. Goodenough