“The essential things in life are seen not with the eyes, but with the heart.”—Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
When I consider the themes of my new book, The Gilded Cage coming out soon, I hear the refrain repeating during the era of reconstruction after the Civil War that black lives did not matter as much as they should have. Now today, I’ve moved to a poignant understanding that life matters beyond all the social structures of human beings. Who would have thought in the 1800’s that man could destroy the whole world, instead of only the one immediately around him? The focus on each one of our beleaguered categories of injustice brings me to the next one, like a telescope moving out instead of in to include all of what we call being alive on our planet today.
Yes, there are so many social injustices, and each single one hurts the many. Yet there’s no stopping the connections. You can’t choose what to pay attention to and what to ignore once you get started. I feel outrage when I watch trees and brush burning, and skies choked with smoke or jet contrails as the ultimate violation. Killing the planet surely kills humans, too.
I well remember the first few days of my quarantine during the pandemic, going outside of my house and realizing the air was cleaner and birds happier than I’d ever seen in my lifetime. Two weeks with no planes in the sky and greatly reduced automobile traffic had already made a huge difference in the air-quality, and it reminded me of the injustice of human-assisted climate change. And we know these things. We know how to nurture and protect life of all kinds, so why don’t we do it? And why don’t we broaden the focus to include all people, places, and things? If we matter and our lives matter, then so does everything else. There can be no other conclusion.
I sense that musicians like my protagonist Emily de Koningh, have an expanded existence including the universe and everything in it, and possibly pay more attention to the bigger world even as they block everything out to learn their skill. Being ahead of her time for women of her era, my Emily lives a big life without exactly planning to.
We all need to live big lives that include all other lives. We need to wrap ourselves in the existence of the planet and the star dust that made it and all of us. My sense of my protagonist’s dilemma was that she started to see the enormity of the problem in discrimination faster than she knew what to do about it, thanks to the every-widening lens of motherhood. There can’t be lines between any of the caring