During our holiday travels to Nevada and Utah, we went to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. To say it was some of the most incredible landscape I’ve ever seen would be a major understatement. Bryce in particular was amazing to see, especially under a pristine snowfall. I’ve been fortunate to experience some great country in the past couple of years, Arizona’s Grand Canyon included. Like the Grand Canyon, Bryce is breathtakingly vast but it also invokes a sense of intimacy—as AG remarked, it is as if you can reach out and touch the rock while looking down from the rim. Each hoodoo, with its unique curves, cracks and colorations, seems to have a story to tell.
I guess this is what it comes down to—narrative breathes life into the abstract, stories make sense of things.
I’ve seen evidence of this over the past few days as people respond to the South Asia earthquake and tsunami disaster. Like the events of 9/11 here in the U.S., the scale of loss, the facelessness of the numbers is incomprehensible and can only begin to make sense once it is tapered to a human level. Our networks showed their utter lack of understanding of this fact during the first few days of the aftermath, when instead of useful information we were fed platitudes and headline-grabbing generalizations. It was insulting. The packaging and broadcasting of disaster, right down to the just-catchy-enough byline pulsing at your television’s edge, is so inappropriately calculated and manipulative that I had a hard time watching. Since the new year, with more people “on the ground,” the attention thankfully has turned more to how people are helping survivors, and of course the urgency to do even more. The stories of bravery, luck, misfortune and grief make the local global and back again, all the more so without a tyrannical dictator to blame or fanatical extremist to out-hate.