I’m in the midst of some heavy revisions these days, but when I desperately need a brain break I’ve been known to peruse the Internet reading a handful of my favorite book blogs—news of the literary world. I allow myself this diversion during official “work hours” because, technically, it is related to writing and the greater literary milieu. The fact that I dilly-dally away hours bantering in the comments sections and allowing one link to take me to another to another and before I know it, I’m reading about Johnny Depp getting the People’s Choice Award for best actor of the decade… well, that’s an upshot of the World Wide Web and completely out of my control.
It reminds me of my grandma who recently schooled me on her latest Mediterranean-style diet, explaining that plantains were originally a Mediterranean fruit from Africa so it was within the diet’s parameters. That they were fried seemed a moot point. Besides, I’ve given up arguing my grandma years ago. Likewise, when my creative mind needs time away from the page, browsing the Internet can become a series of excuses to play, to gobble up sweetly fried news blurbs under the guise of healthy activity.
But then there are the days when I run smack into a titillating dialogue or a news tidbit that sparks a deeper thought. I love those. It makes me glad other people are thinking about the world at large, pondering literature, examining their social roles, and dreaming along with authors. It’s daily evidence that the human spirit is vividly alive.
This happened today when I saw a NASA satellite image of North Korea. It was a large, black peninsula in the middle of a pixie-lit continent. The image is apparently at the start of Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” book.
I can’t explain exactly why this photograph stopped me in my tracks, but it did. Maybe it’s because it reminded me that people, real 2010 people, live in darkness. Darkness in all facets that the word connotes.
A conversation I had with my husband this past weekend came to mind. We were discussing a mindset that we’ve both seen creep over the general American population: the “what can I do, it’s beyond my control, I give up, woe is me, it’s not fair” philosophy. Complacency, which is often accompanied by its pathetic sidekick Mr. Whines-A-Lot. Okay, so the economy is struggling, unemployment is above 10 percent, people are frustrated and tired, and the “Yes we can!” chanted with President Obama has dwindled to a weak cry. I get it. But when did we become a nation of defeatist, of whiners, of people who shout from the rooftops and online chat rooms that their life is so devastatingly unfair?
I, for one, was raised that you gave 100 percent and if that wasn’t enough, you gave a little more and if that wasn’t enough, you gave a little more than that! Until every last bit of you was poured into the living and the lights went out, literally. Before that day, giving up is not an option, whining about it is not an option. I understand that’s a bit super-trooper and perhaps a product of my Army brat childhood. Maybe so, but I’ve met many civilian Americans who share my sentiments: politicians and lawyers, doctors and businessmen, steelworkers and dairy farmers, carpenters and chefs, stay-at-home moms and dads, writers, readers and thinkers. Tons of folks that feel exactly as I do.
So I refuse to believe that hope and God and goodness are evasive entities. I refuse to become a gloom and doom individual. Especially when I see something like that—North Korea in absolute shadow. Have you seen NASA images of America? Here you go. The epitome of star-spangled. We need to remember that even in our “darkest days,” we got it pretty damn good.
When I flew into Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. during the holidays, I was greeted by the glow of the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Memorial, and the White House; all illuminated so powerfully their luminescence could be seen from my plane window miles high, seen from outer space.
Please excuse this Pollyanna moment, but sometimes I think we Americans need to get our heads out of our little, dark holes and recognize just how bright we got it.
See, my blog window-shopping was worthy of the time! Or at least today’s was. (BTW– Johnny Depp flat out deserved the People’s Choice Award. Hello: “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory,” “Chocolat,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Sleepy Hollow,” and the forthcoming “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Rum Diary.” You have to admire a guy with so many literary-turned-film works to his credit.)
Yours truly, Sarah
For more information on the Demick’s book check out Jacket Copy’s post: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2010/01/north-korea-a-nation-in-the-dark.html