The other day, I watched a video in which a comedian talked about the differences between women’s brains and men’s brains. He explained how men keep each area of their lives in a separate mental box: job, money, wife, kids, etc. And those boxes never touch.

Women, he said, have brains like a ball of wire. Everything is touching, everything is connected, and the wire is buzzing with activity. He insisted that a man’s favorite mental box contains . . . nothing. He said a man can have a nothing box because he doesn’t really care much about anything. Women care about everything. While his points are all wildly overstated, I realized I would give anything for a “nothing box.”

Especially this past week, when Hurricane Harvey descended on Houston, and people in Japan were told to take cover as North Korean missiles flew over their air space, and someone hung a noose in a dorm at our local university near a black student’s room.

There are so many things to worry about I can’t figure out which should take precedent on any given day. No, in any given hour. Should I worry most about possible war, climate change, mosquito-borne viruses, terrorism, or toxic waste in our water supplies?

With such heavy issues constantly on our minds, what makes us think our little efforts to make art really matter? Wouldn’t our time be better served volunteering for a nonprofit and trying to help clean up some of the world’s messes?

It feels wrong, doesn’t it, to whine about our struggles to write a story or song when other people are struggling to put food on the table? It feels selfish to complain about a lack of time to pursue our passions, when people elsewhere are trying to find work of any kind. It feels arrogant to boast about a good review when others are picking through what’s left of their homes. It would be far easier to just sit in our dark living rooms and take out our “nothing boxes” and pretend none of this exists.

But a “nothing box” never solved anything. It’s good, I think, to take a break when things get overwhelming. And then it’s time for action. Make a donation to help relief efforts, volunteer for a service organization, watch someone’s kids so he/she can lend their skills to a rescue effort, and remember that someday, someone might be doing the same things to help you.

But don’t stop making your art. Give back to a hurting world the best that your talents and skills can offer. While police officers, electricians, doctors, civil engineers, and first-responders work to rescue and rebuild broken towns and broken bodies, artists can work to rebuild broken souls. It may not sound like much sometimes, but it’s all we can do. It’s what we must do.

 

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