When something horrible, disturbing, senseless or incomprehensible happens in the news, we try to make sense of it. We can't. We want to do something, to fix it, to prevent it from happening again. But we are not all-powerful, and we can't control the acts of others now or in the future. We feel compelled to talk about it and analyze it to the point of wallowing or desensitization because we are struggling to make sense of it and thereby, we hope, gain back the control and sense of security that we have lost.
Some believe the answer to horrors is legislation or political action. But for those who are creatively inclined, or those who feel politics and legislation can only go so far, I say "Create things of beauty and meaning, and generate laughter."
The world has more than its fair share of senseless violence, destruction and ugliness. I think there is value in the act of creation. I think creation should combat the world's tendency towards cruelty and chaos. Sometimes, an artist must shine a light on those darker things. But we must do so with meaning and purpose lest we risk adding to the cruelty and violence or worse, feeding it, fanning its destructive flame.
I was going through my student teaching program when 9-11 happened. I'll never forget how our Educational Psychology professor handled that day. He threw out his lesson plan. He put building materials on our tables - LEGOs, connecting cubes, tinker toys. He told us to work with our table groups to build something, build a city. That's all. Later, we walked in a garden, reflected and talked. But the most memorable part of that day was the act of communal creation in the face of a destruction. For me, it was a powerful model of how to respond to real-world horror.
So, today, if the news has left you feeling hollow, disturbed, worried for the state of our society, create things of beauty and meaning, and generate laughter. Work in your garden. Knit. Paint. Draw. Write. Read poetry to someone you love. Rearrange your furniture to make the space you share with friends more beautiful. Tell a joke. Build a LEGO village or a pillow fort. Decorate a cake. Bake bread. Sculpt something from clay or playdough or sand. Visit with a friend. Make funny faces at your baby. Blow bubbles with your child. Make the world, for one small moment in one small way, a little bit better place.