Dispatches from the Edge

I’m reading now Anderson Cooper’s, Dispatches from the Edge, A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival.

I find it surprisingly self-effacing.  I want to share with you a short piece therein that spoke to me (pp. 103-104):

“Here they treat the worst cases first.  That’s what TV wants as well.  The illest, the greatest in need.  It’s a sad selection process that happens in your head.

‘That child’s bad, but I think we can find worse,’ I say to myself, deciding whose suffering merits time on TV.  You tell yourself it’s okay, that your motives are good — at the moment you might even believe it.  But later, alone, lying in bed, you go over the day and feel like a fraud.  Each child’s story is worthy of telling.  There shouldn’t be a sliding scale of death.  The weight is crushing.

They die, I live.  It’s such a thin line to cross.  Money makes the difference.  If you have it, you can always survive, always find a place to stay, something to eat.  For the first few days in Maradi, I’m not even hungry.  It’s not just the heat, the dust.  I’ve become disgusted with myself.  My body fat, my health, my minor aches and pains.  I brought with me a bagful of food — cans of tuna and Power Bars — but the thought of eating anything makes me want to throw up.  That changes, of course.  After a couple days I forget why I’m depriving myself.

They die, I live.  It’s the way of the world, the way it’s always been.  I used to think that some good would come of my stories, that someone might be moved to act because of what I’d reported.  I’m not sure I believe that anymore.  Once place improves, another falls apart.  The map keeps changing; it’s impossible to keep up.  No matter how well I write, how truthful my tales, I can’t do anything to save the lives of the children here, now.”

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13 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Edge

  1. Wow. I so get what he means and was just thinking about such things. While I don’t participate in any organized religion (although I was born Jewish) there’s an old Jewish proverb “Save one person and you save the world.” I know for myself I often feel overwhelmed by the immensity of pain and suffering I see and hear about in the world. I can only imagine what Mr. Cooper must have seen in his work!

    It makes me feel so helpless, especially lately when I hear talented politicians who we so want to change things being reduced to sound-bytes and verbal mud wrestling. We have such serious problems. What is it about our “civilized” world that makes coming up with real, viable mutually-embraced solutions almost an afterthought? And then I remember the proverb and its message of disengaging sometimes from the larger picture and doing what we can where we are. Who can I help today? Where can I speak out that might maybe help one person? I truly believe these acts multiply in some way we don’t have to individually see or understand.

    I believe Anderson Cooper has helped MANY people with the work he does in ways he has seen and in many ways he can never know…but I can also see how hopeless he must feel when he realizes there is an endless supply of pain. I want so much to think of us as slowly evolving to a different way of approaching these things. But for now I will think about who I can bring a smile to or help in some way.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post, SE.

  2. I don’t understand why, and I have cried over the sufferings I see. I finally had to accept that I can only do what I can within my circle and a little beyond. I keep trying to widen the circle.
    I think many others are doing the same…like yourself. 🙂

    Thank you for being.

  3. Okay, I am now adding YET another book to my list. I went to see if i could find out more about the author…( Not the TV soul here and found out some interesting stuff about this bloke. ) So this may actually get purchased…
    Thanks for the pointer!
    Following the arrows on the wall…LOL

  4. Hi Surface Earth,
    We may not often think about it, but books that draw our attention tell us a lot about ourselves, our hopes and fears.

    One thing I’ve learned about reading is subjects can uplift or depress you. They can open your mind to possibility or, compel you to deepen your judgment and criticism. If the books you read nurture positive feelings of love, compassion and forgiveness, then they uplift your spirit and soul. If however, books you read focus your thoughts and emotions on negative energy, then you may wish to rethink some of your choices.

    There’s an excerpt in The Secret DVD when Jack Canfield talks about Mother Teresa. She was happy to join in a “peace” rally but wouldn’t have anything to do with “anti-war” demonstrations. To think about war and conflict only brings more of the same. By the same token, to focus thoughts on peace and positive things, more will come.

  5. I am reminded of the story of the little girl tossing starfish back into the sea. “But there are hundreds” a man said to her, “what difference can you make?”

    “I can make a difference for that one.” the little girl replied.

    {SE} my very 1st comment on your blog was to share that the circumstances we live with are intrinsically tied to our beliefs. Take a look at the worst of the poverty and suffering in our World and you’ll find people with beliefs that are limited in the Love and Value accorded each person.

  6. Ronnie: I appreciate greatly your thoughts and your conclusion that Mr. Anderson has in fact helped many..is it possible that as we help one at a time, we lose our focus of the global effect?

    Gypsy….one step at a time, yes?

    Liara: perfect timing. I often reject books when at the store, knowing it is not the right time. Perhaps how I dealt with Mr. Anderson’s book suggested I was not wholly protected in how I wanted to use my energy. I appreciate your words.

    Sue Ann: “yes”

  7. Liara:

    I agree.

    I also find so many of us forget who we are. I love to watch my young children, they are who they are, as they should be.

    Peace & blessings.

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