Thursday, June 05, 2008

Famine of feeling - Wright

According to Tom Hayden, the lack of a proportionate response to today’s catastrophic human needs is due to "a famine of feeling". Hayden’s interview appeared in the May 17th Globe and Mail. I had no idea who Hayden was—a California activist prominent in the 60’s student movement—until I read the article.

He makes a good point. "What’s depressing to me is the lack of response in comparison to the need…the very dangerous exhaustion of belief in solutions on the part of the people who are supposed to be the world’s problem-solvers."

I admit to a certain exhaustion with 24 hour news coverage of tornadoes ripping through US neighbourhoods, storms ravaging Myanmar, and earthquakes devastating parts of China. Meanwhile no solution looms for Darfur.

Probably, the wave of popularity for Barack Obama’s platform of change reflects people’s cynicism with old institutions.

Evan Solomon, the columnist who interviewed Hayden, chose a counter-intuitive way to interact with Hayden. He sent him a photo with no explanation and asked Hayden for a caption. Solomon, a writer, journalist and host of CBC News: Sunday and Sunday Night, does this every month. He sends an unidentified image to someone in the public eye. The resulting interaction creates an interesting interview.

I wonder, however, if images aren’t the problem. Confucius, not Christ, claimed that a picture is worth a thousand words. Christ came as the Everlasting Word, without passing on any images. Today we have a billion images bombarding us everywhere we turn and making less and less impact. Perhaps we are suffering from visual exhaustion and need a few more well-chosen words.

The picture Evan Solomon sent Tom Hayden, of hands raised in entreaty, could have been interpreted in thousands of ways.

A church friend recently returned from Liberia with a story about murderous boy-soldiers turned compassionate missionaries. His story evoked many emotions: horror at the atrocities they’d committed, astonishment at their transformation, and praise for the God who did the impossible. Admittedly, the pictures he showed at church helped.

Pictures may supplement our attempts to evoke emotions but they will never render words obsolete. Hence, our mandate as writers to touch people with well-crafted word pictures.
Eric E. Wright,

No comments:

Popular Posts