An open letter to Everything Going On

Dear Everything Going On,

A few days ago, I realized something. For the first time in my life, I felt worried for the world. In my 19 years, I’ve lived through a lot of ugly things; we are a generation who has been around for 9/11, the Iraq war, the Boston Marathon Bombings, the Sandy Hook shooting, the Syrian civil war and so, so many other acts of hate.

But I’ve always seen these acts as isolated events; I’ve mourned them and worried over them, but I’ve never felt like they meant the world was a “bad” or dark place. Until last Thursday. My Facebook newsfeed was full of anger regarding Mizzou, the attack on Paris and the refusal of Syrian refugees. Two of my professors took time out of class to address recent events; the news was full of numbers of suffering. And suddenly, I realized that the pit in my stomach wasn’t just about the single tragedies or controversies. My gut feared for the fate of the world.

To be honest, I spent a lot of the day feeling really upset about that. I didn’t want to be the kind of person who shook their head and talked about an end of decency, but all of a sudden, my usual “the world is beautiful” attitude felt hollow, heavy, unconvincing.

And so I fought it. I spent that evening reading my favorite lines from my favorite books. I watched videos of flash-mob orchestras playing “Joy to the World,” went through my journals about finding hope in the midst of Benin’s worst poverty. I surrounded myself with beauty, resiliency, joy, optimism, goodness — because these were the things that the pit in my stomach was threatening. And over the course of the evening, I re-found my faith in the world.

We cannot let ourselves get caught up in the ugliness, for doing so puts us at risk of becoming blind to the beauty. When terrorism strikes, when racism rears its head, when people suffer and are met with apathy — these are the times when we need to focus on falling in love with the world. When we see hate, we need to respond with love. Where the world seems to echo with gunshots, that’s when we need to make our songs louder. When we look at someone and see a monster, as hard as it is, we must try to understand them, to forgive them. And when we feel that injustice has been done, perhaps the solution lies not in incriminating that injustice but in seeking our own opportunities for goodness and equality. Fight with flowers.

This doesn’t mean turning our heads away from ugliness. It doesn’t mean ignoring it, minimizing it or trying to justify it. I simply believe that we must counter ugliness with beauty and find the beauty within ugliness, too.

Dear Everything Going on in the World: I mourn your hate; you make me grieve. But I will not let you take away my hope for the future or my love for the world. Because hope and love must be stronger than hate and grief.


Clara Wagner