What do a mudslide in western Washington, a Chicago El train jumping the tracks at O’Hare airport, a
In this ever-shrinking world, we are bombarded on all sides by a 24/7 news cycle that rarely offers good news. A country invaded here, a few dozen people killed there—tragedies abound and the cacophony of news from the Internet, television, radio and even our mobile devices leaves us numb and inured. A news commentator on one of the local stations says we listen, glued to these stories, to reassure ourselves that these things couldn't happen to us.
It’s at times like these that what we really need is perspective. We have to pick our battles. Not only do we have to choose what information we’re going to let into our lives, we have to decide how we’re going to let it affect us. Obviously, we can’t try to help each time the call goes out. We can’t leap to the rescue of the people of Darrington, Washington, and the families of those slain by the Taliban at the same time. We donate our time and money when we can. We offer our condolences and sympathy where it makes sense.
But most of all, 36 injured in Chicago, or 14 dead in Washington, or thousands killed or made homeless by civil strife in Syria makes our own problems trivial by comparison. These events put our own lives in perspective. I can acknowledge each tragedy that I hear or read about, bow my head in a moment of silence and prayer for the victims and their families, but most of all I can feel gratitude for all the blessings I have in my own life.
All too often, we lose sight of what’s important. We let our priorities become skewed. When we’re more concerned about the announced break-up of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, or the latest shenanigans of The Biebster or Lindsay Lohan than we are about the homeless and the hungry, we’ve lost perhaps the best part of our humanity.
I saw an interesting argument on Facebook recently about income inequality. The poster’s position basically was that the differences in pay that a rocket scientist and a Walmart associate isn’t really income inequality at all, but rather the difference in market value between the two types of work.
I’m pretty much in agreement with that point of view. Yes, our capitalist captains of industry make obscene amounts of money to run their companies, but opportunities exist for anyone, given hard work and a lot of luck, to work their way up a corporate ladder or start a small business and turn it into a big one.
Where I have a problem is the value that all of us, even those of us who decry income inequality, place on different types of work. When the average Major League Baseball player makes 57 times as much as the average teacher to stand around in a field in the sun and play a game, what does that say about our values? The average NBA player makes 90 times as much as the average teacher in the U.S. Isn’t the education our children get more important than whether someone from Denver can throw a ball through a hoop more times than someone from LA or Chicago?
Ultimately, it comes down to perspective. Life can be incredibly random and unfair. No matter how hard we try we can’t legislate fairness or impose it on a population. There will always be mudslides and religious fanatics and tragic accidents like train derailments and airline crashes.
In part, I think that’s why many of us write thrillers. In our small way, we can impose order on chaos, turn the tragedy of murder into justice. It’s how we maintain our perspective.
How do you maintain your perspective in the face of an unending stream of bad news? Where do you find both solace and strength?
Michael W. Sherer is the author of Night Tide, the second novel in the Blake Sanders thriller series. The first in the Seattle-based series, Night Blind, was nominated for an ITW Thriller Award in 2013. His other books include the award-winning Emerson Ward mystery series, the stand-alone suspense novel, Island Life, and the Tess Barrett YA thriller series.
He and his family now reside in the Seattle area. Please visit him at www.michaelwsherer.com or you can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thrillerauthor and on Twitter @MysteryNovelist.