Knowledge is Painful

I am cursed with intelligence and a deep sense of logic.  I’m not Mr. Spock, mind you – way too emotional for that – but it pains me that our world is so illogical.  I want there to be justice, and fairness, and I want things to work out as they should.  Of course that is silly.

A very wise man once told me that knowledge equals obligation.  If you know something, you have a moral responsibility to address it in one way or another.  He was not suggesting that I personally could solve the world’s problems, but that as a thinking creature, I could not disown, or detach from, the knowledge I had gained. I think the discussion was initiated by the horrors in Bosnia in the nineties.   Women were being raped as part of an ethnic assault, and I was literally losing sleep over it.  A deep depression was initiated by the understanding that human beings can be cruel and violent, and that innocent victims were powerless to fight it.  I was powerless to fight it.

My friend told me that if we know of a horror, we are obliged to do something about it.  What does this mean?  Do I send money to relief organizations?  Is a care package of any value at all?  Should I write to my congressmen and senators demanding intervention?  Is it enough to know, and to speak out? What???

I am not strong enough to fight the evil in the world on a personal level.  It overwhelms me.  But how can I sleep at night while these horrors exist, if I have done nothing?

My daughter has spent the last 4 weeks volunteering in New Orleans, helping with the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. (  I so admire her willingness to put herself in a situation where she not only believes in helping, but is actually doing something.  She is young, and strong, and socially responsible.  By comparison, I am a failure. I send money to food banks and other charities; I support human rights and environmental organizations.  My heart is in the right place, but my actions do not follow.  I cannot put myself in harm’s way.  I am a coward.

But I also see the hopelessness.  I believe there is nothing I can do that will matter.  How small of me to feel this way, while my daughter sweats in the oppressive heat of New Orleans in July.  I know that if we help one person, or one family, we have succeeded, but I struggle with an inability to get past the big picture. I see a world of pain, and torture, and neglect, and abuse, and am paralyzed.

I believe human beings are a seriously flawed species, and it is just a matter of time before we destroy ourselves and anything else in our path.  I truly believe this.   We destroy the gift that is the earth, and we destroy one another.  I think it is a flaw in our makeup.  When Mother Nature created man, she gave him free will, but forgot to give him common sense.  When she gave him a competitive spirit, she left out a sense of fair play.

We shall be the only species thus far that becomes extinct through our own actions.

This depresses me beyond belief.


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15 Responses to “Knowledge is Painful”

  1. heathenly Says:

    I don’t think the contributions you make are any less valuable– they’re just different, based on your level of sensitivity. Some people have dispositions that enable them to be bright and cheerful and capable in horrible situations– and those people are ideally suited for endeavors such as the one your daughter tackles. Then there are people like you (and me, incidentally) who maybe over-sympathize, who take on the grief of others to the point where it becomes self-destructive (let’s face it: some people just have depressive-type personalities. Sue us.). Does that make you less valuable? No. Look at your daughter. You raised her. Look at her mirroring the compassion she was raised to feel.

    Maybe that is the best thing one can do- raise the next generation of compassionate, generous people. If so: goal achieved, Nance.

  2. Shawn W Says:

    ((Nanic)), heathenly is right. The things you do are just as important. Think, for just one minute, what the world would be like if there were no one to do what you do.

  3. Nancy Says:

    Thanks, guys. You made me feel better. I did not look at it that way. I had been reading my daughter’s blog, and thinking that she is so amazing, and so admirable, and by contrast, I am, well, not.

    Thanks for reading this. I’ve been neglectful of late in reading your work. Gotta get to it.

  4. heathenly Says:

    You’re under no obligation to read my dreck.

    I’m glad to help, though!

  5. Nancy Spivey Says:

    I like your dreck.

  6. thelittlefluffycat Says:

    Do I have a smart triplet, or not? 🙂 Two, even.

    We don’t have to save the world — all we got to do is hang onto each other. I watched a thing a while back (husband had control of the remote) about a ship or maybe a plane that went down in shark-infested waters. There were a lot of survivors — at first. Not so many, later. The difference was, the ones who continued to hang onto each other, to hold each other up, to encourage each other, survived. The ones who let loose and went looking for something they imagined existed (they said in the show it was from getting desperate enough to drink sea water) died.

    I don’t usually watch that kind of thing, but I was glad, in the end, I had. {{{Nancy}}}

  7. heathenly Says:

    Stop depressing Nancy, LFC!

  8. Shawn W Says:

    You’re under no obligation to catch up on my nonsense either, but there are some cute kitten pictures that might make you smile. 😉

    To give you an example of how givers help:

    We have a young couple in our church, who both have Down’s Syndrome. They have a long sad past, which includes parents trying to split them up and a beautiful son and daughter they can’t raise. If it weren’t for the church’s food pantry, they would have a very hard time feeding themselves.

    That’s not all they get out of it either. They’re learning, from the couples they see at church, how to act like a married couple, how to care for each other, and how to stand up for each other. They now have a support group that keeps those helping them honest. And they’re getting regular visits with their children.

    All because someone cared enough to donate to our food pantry, which allowed us to share our help, love, and support with them.

  9. Corina Says:

    There is so much to be done that no one person can do it all. We each need to do just what we can. Sometimes a financial contribution is tough for some of us. We do it anyway. This is no different than someone going out and physically doing the tough work. They do what they can. If each person would do what they could, this would be a much better earth.

    Chin up. Keep doing what you can. Part of the job is to be optimistic. Optimism is SO important in a world filled with so much work to be done!

  10. nanis Says:

    Aw, thanks, guys. Now I know why I love you all.

  11. heathenly Says:

    Yeah, and now you know why you should blog! The healing power of awesome friends!

  12. pandemonic Says:

    It’s like filling a pail with a teaspoon. It’s hard to be optimistic, but think of the alternative. I’d rather have some optimism.

  13. herechilln Says:

    I wanted to leave a profound comment, maybe some cheerful words of wisdom. Now I can’t. Anything I say will pale in comparison to Pan’s philosophy. Pure genius, I tell ya. We need to keep her.

  14. Katrina Says:

    I think that you should contribute in ways that make you feel good. I think sending money places is great, but it is obviously not making you feel better for very long. Volunteer in a soup kitchen or at the hospital a couple hours a week or something. Something that gives back to you as well…

  15. Tan Says:

    I can really relate to that, it’s such a lonely world when you feel you’re the only one who sees true reality – not the reality of common perception, watch people do their thing and in your mind you already know what their next steps are and what will happen and the harsh lessons and the pain and the years before they come to your understanding and by that time they’re damaged people. I’ve tried too but the world is too big for me but you give me hope that there are others. Peace xx

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