He’d been having this conversation with his mother for years. About the news network and what it decided to make life about. Narratives. Distractions. Sinkholes of energy. He always thought it was a conversation — he’d prefer it if she watched something else, or nothing at all, and they’d come to an agreement, a very worthwhile compromise, that when they were sharing the common spaces of the kitchen or living room she would pause the television. But today it became a debate, again, and narrowed into the gap resembling a conflict, about, even though he couldn’t really say it at first, the moral equivalency of obvious versus tacit problems of survival, and which ones we were perhaps able to more directly gaze upon with interest and empathy.
It was about those children stuck deep and very far underground. He wanted to be compassionate about the experience, but felt yet again, here was a situation where all the framing of the attention just moved us as spectators even deeper into some other cave. The way they reported on the narrative made him angry at them and angry at himself for rubbernecking over it and wondering about the outcome. But there was just so much goddamn peril and danger everywhere, he thought. Why this?
Ultimately, whatever sent us into the cave, if they could engineer a way out, if the Thai civil engineers and military, if Elon Musk, apparently, now that he was glancing at it from Fremont or Hawthorne and proposing a tiny child-sized rocketship-material submarine, if some collection of society could come together to save these lives, then perhaps, yes, this was evidence of something we ought to elevate. And that, maybe this was the only type of thing that mattered. Collective survival.
His frustration, bordering even on anger, wasn’t about the situation itself, it was about the exploitation of the story. It was ultimately a frustration, like most are, about something internal and conflicted and maybe full of guilt that he couldn’t reconcile, not by sitting and watching.
The story itself, now that he was actually looking at it rather than reacting, was actually just a physics and geology and human engineering problem, and that perhaps with the right effort and work and ingenuity and likely gritty determination and conquest of the mortal danger, could be solved. And that problem of the cave was the problem of all exploration. But, it was problem that could be solved, and he hoped it would, because he’d been in a cave once, and looked at the carbon-dated outlines of human handprints that in ancient sign language said:
We’ve been here before.
It saved us.
There is a way out.
He realized, then, that she was correct, and he couldn’t have been more wrong.
Anger seemed to have that side-effect, now that he thought about it.