[After asking his nana for permission to talk to me]
I’m worried that I’ll never get to see my dad and he misses me and I miss him. And I miss nature, I miss everything.
Your nana’s over there, you don’t miss her, right?
No, she’s right over there, and my mom, and my auntie, except for my dad.
Are you guys in touch? [Shakes head.] Do you like to draw?
Maybe you could do some drawings and save them for him, I bet he’d like that.
I like to draw Minecraft. I make a comic book and I turn it into a comic book and all I do is make Minecraft, that’s all. Can I have a piece of paper? [I give him a piece of paper and he folds it.] Do you have a scissor or can you rip it? [He draws a line to show me where to rip, and unfolds a one-sheet booklet. He then goes and lugs his little cousin over to meet me and they draw together for a while on the backs of some of the alternate-history blanks, except he’s having a competition for how much paper he can cover and she’s not. I give him a marker, a clipboard, and the rest of the alternate-history blanks to take with him.]
I worked at Apeiron, I worked in Woonsocket. Life is so totally out of balance, so disconnected. We’re all implicated. It makes me so unutterably sad.
What do you do when you feel that sadness?
I try to put parts of my body on the grass and connect with Mother Earth … A lot will survive, but I think it might not be us. I try to breathe. I think about the bad things I do and how they contribute … I believe that everybody cares, given the opportunity to care.
I’ve been trying to think about what sadness might make possible.
Sadness leads to the desire for connection. Sadness informs reaching out. But I don’t share sadness often, because I want to make opportunities for people to perform their own responses, to facilitate a journey to authentic response.
But the soil wasn’t what they were worried about, you might be thinking, or it was just a small element of their worry. Their fear towers higher and their loss reaches deeper. So let’s imagine instead that W changes her direction. That every time someone says, “Beautiful day,” when she’s in line at the supermarket, she says, “It’s so unseasonably warm because the world is warming.” Every time someone asks how she’s doing, she says, “I’m sad and angry, because I can’t stop the polluting practices that are ruining the world.” When her sister calls from Houston to announce her promotion at work, she says, “We could lose between 20 to 50 percent of species out all life on earth, within the century, and that’s a conservative estimate.”
For T, it’s different. That’s too much work for us to ask a kid to do, so his family takes it on for him, and his teachers, and his grown cousins. But when he does speak about his worry and his loneliness, everyone listens, and they also listen when he talks about Minecraft, or shows them something he’s made. He gets into the habit of being heard, recognized, real to the people around him.
W never unbends, never cracks. Her presence as a mourner is total. She feels satisfaction, even peace, that comes from knowing what to do. What to do is this.
T and the kids he knows grow up–loved, recognized, embraced, curious, brave, and also confused, sad, lonely, frustrated, angry sometimes. What to do with sadness? What to do?
People do listen to W, and some emulate her. Every day they sit together for an hour and imagine their own deaths, and the deaths of everything they have ever loved. In the rest of their days, they attempt to alleviate present suffering. When people try to take care of them, to offer them food or shelter, they redirect it to someone else in greater need. They mark their faces with ashes. They are eerie, like the future.
And people, in awe of them, let them pass–into offices, into power plants, into factories. They tell the people inside the effects of their decisions, and then they leave. The next day they are back.
T and his friends let sadness make them kind and anger make them brave. They share everything they have. They run shining over the whole earth.
But what will happen, though? I hear you asking. What’s going to happen?