Last night, Stephen Hawking died. We’re at the three year anniversary of Pratchett dying. There are special elections going on, leadership in some countries deciding that they’re going to rule for life, and a whole lot of strangeness going on.
I’m also coming up on a birthday, so that’s got me deep in thought as well.
Traditionally, I’ve clung to statistics and fiction as my buoy for hope. That long upward trend of the world improving, the one that reaches back before I was born. It was a position with the safety of the abstract. Numbers, trends, generalities. The world was, slowly, getting better. I was never of the position that we were done trying to improve, or that it was anything resembling evenly distributed. It was a nice thing to lean back on when the world seemed dark; even with the bad things in the world, we’re slowly getting better.
When that didn’t work, we had the other side of the coin for me. The future. Stories. Myths. Hawking and other scientists pushing the edges of what humanity knows, what we can grapple with, always wondering if some point of salvation or the way to improve or solve one problem or another might be just beyond that next discovery. Or Pratchett and fiction writers, asking questions and telling stories. Wondering what could happen, and trying to talk it through with us.
Last year didn’t feel like that world any more. Things seemed darker, for a lot of reasons. Events around the world wrenched at the core of me, the world was terrifying. I had to close myself off to the news, to the outside world. I’m not to proud to admit that I hid away for a spell, working on worlds that were made up, that were within my control. Turned out, that break was something I needed. Even with that, the rest of the world seeped in. Into my writing (as it so often does), and it couldn’t be kept at bay.
I think both of these men, and countless other men and women both gone and still with us, serve as a wonderfully small reminder that even when things are darkest, it is only through our efforts that the world can be better. Nothing improves unless those of us do whatever we can to improve our own little corner of the world.
Happy Wednesday to you, and I hope.