Fine, sure they do, but they certainly help hone our lives and define what's significant. I was sitting there NOT being productive because of a wicked headache listening to Radiolab, the best show ever and apparently the generative kernel of all things inspirational to me. From this segment I learned the inspiring/heartbreaking/memento mori tale of Emily Gossiaux, a young artist from New York who was mowed down by an 18-wheeler. Emily is in the process of being re-constituted, bit by bit, from an a-sensory state. The above radiolab link is REALLY worth listening to, it floored me.
That, in and of itself, was chilling to me. As a biker, Emily's brush with death has existed in the back of my mind as a possible event for me for at least the last 8 years, whispering when I feel the most fragile. It doesn't help that this week a young lady in Salt Lake was killed in a hit-and-run, as was a bike messenger in Santa Cruz. But what really got me was her picture.
I've seen this girl before... In my head. She's exactly what my main character looks like from a writing project I've been shelving and working on for more than a year. From my character notes:
"------ is a girl nearing college age with long dark hair and big curious eyes. Her eyes snap to a dull glaze whenever she thinks it's cooler to not be as intrigued by a given subject of interest. She discovers her alternative leanings rather than beginning with them. She's pretty, tall, and of thin build, but awkward and with a layer of slight chubbiness which causes her to be self-conscious around other girls. Further insecurity is shown in the layer of makeup that surrounds her already naturally striking eyes."
Exact. I didn't mention her eyes, but they're that color. And yeah the makeup thing's wrong, but Emily's older, she's already shed that self-consciousness. So that's creepy in and of itself. Then, a random comment, somewhere, says this girl "looks like another Emily, the Gaza Flotilla girl." Huh. Gaza. Relevant. I follow the link. Suddenly I'm learning about Emily Henochowicz, who lost her eye when bolted with a teargas canister in Qalandia a year or so ago.
They DO look alike. They could be sisters. They're both artists, and... wait... they both go to Cooper Union, and know each other! Spooky. But what's more spooky, and ever more apparent to me, is how mortal we all are. How damageable. These two girls, like so many others, were tragically cracked apart, in very different circumstances, extraordinary and ordinary, militarized occupation and routine traffic accident.
It's important to remember that every incident is a symbol for many others, a systemic whole. I hate that the world underlines and sensationalizes one death or transgression over the other. What happened to bicycle Emily could happen to anyone, and what happened to protest Emily often does happen to Palestinians.
It's actually one of the things that makes the Palestinian-Israeli conflict important to me. It's not MORE important to other things throughout the world, but the relationship of power, political manipulation in the name of self interest, and the prioritizing of oppression for gain over self-determination all can be easily transferred and applied elsewhere in the world in a thousand different contexts.
So when I watch this video, going viral at the moment, of a 19 year old American Jew being beaten and arrested by Israeli military for standing up and eloquently stating why he's against their occupation, I don't think just of him.
I think of every Palestinian who's gone through the same struggle of voicelessness in the face of injustice, and every Syrian who can't say what he believes right now, and American radicals who can't stop the destruction of the environment for wealth, and homeless kids in Tanzania who huff glue all night because they can't sleep otherwise, and then...
Well I guess then my headache comes back. Fuck. I'm gonna go live in a log cabin somewhere. Maybe finish this book. G'night everybody!