What happens when you encounter something that was once only text on a webpage?
You float above an ecosystem, scanning it for details hidden and unknown to you as a person on land. Small amounts of fish hurry past, trying their best not to catch your attention. You notice them, sure, but their numbers mean little to you.
Something else holds your attention. It’s the habitat in which these fish live. Diving deeper below reveals a story you’ve often heard but paid no mind to.
White corals. Here they are.
They affront you with every rock you investigate. A sapping of life from some creature you know nothing of. At first you think it’s a fluke, a one-off disease. Then you traverse all the large stones harboring similar structures. Then you see how the disease is not rare at all.
Something sits heavy in the air these days. Australia is burning, the Caribbean is trembling, the major world powers are threatening worldwide conflict. Here we sit at the beginning of a new decade, detached from it all.
That’s it, I think. This detachment that afflicts us. Our one mechanism for combatting the reality of what surrounds us at every corner.
We read of the horrors that come with every new hour and cannot bear to hold it close to our own hearts. How could we? The burden of it all would be too much.
This defense mechanism of my generation stripped us also of our ability to empathize. Though our eyes remain dry with every devastating headline, when confronted by the truth face to face, still no tears fall.
I floated above the dead coral, surveying it, watching the small schools of fish meander by. I understood the drained color. I knew why the schools were so slim.
And yet I felt little.
Here I am, writing about it, thinking I’d have something really impactful to say in regards to such a sight. Alas I cannot come up with the words.
Nor can I come up with the words to speak on Australia, Iran, the rest of the world. I live in my bubble as it is comfortable.
I do not wish to leave it.
I have a question, then. How can we speak of these horrors in a way that preserves us, but also makes us care?
That is what I wish to know. The images that confronted me sit fresh in my mind. They do not elicit much from me beyond a mild disappointment.
Where has my outrage gone?
Perhaps I am just… tired.