The Christmas tree is either packed away or on the curb awaiting pickup. Your recyclables clank away in your trunk, and your credit card balance has grown tremendously.
The holidays are behind us and we’re settling back into our routines. Your fridge is stocked with tiny carrots and string cheese for your kid’s school lunches, and the traffic on your work commute has returned to preseason levels.
Some of us keep our Christmas lights up until the weather is warm enough to justify hauling the ladder out and removing them. We don’t judge our neighbours who wait until February because everyone has different priorities.
Priorities can take the form of vexing New Year’s resolutions. Maybe this year you’re working on using less single-use plastics or taking advantage of COLT and leaving the car in the garage.
Yes, priorities. Perhaps these tiny goals are keeping our minds distracted from the dumpster fire of current events we’ve been inundated with since this decade began a week ago. In our pocket of paradise, seemingly worlds away from hot beds of devastation, we grumble about the cold snap and the inferiority of Tim Hortons new coffee lids.
No matter what frivolous distractions occupy our days, we’re absolutely affected by these events. We pause in the grocery store when our Apple Watch sends us a somber news notification and then we remorsefully scrutinize the contents of our cart.
Our digital world is a colander of information and even if we’re not immersed in the latest news, we’re likely to hear about it in some social setting. With every devastating news story, our idyllic world makes us feel grateful and maybe a bit guilty.
Some of us have experienced the horror of wildfires. If you were living in Slave Lake in 2011 or Fort McMurray in 2016 you’re familiar with the devastation. Most of us in Cochrane have lived under smoke laden skies in the summer months and remember the nostril irritating smell of forest fires burning in nearby British Columbia. Even with our experience, it’s difficult to grapple with Australia’s bushfire situation.
According to the BBC, at least 24 people been killed - including three volunteer firefighters - and more than 63,000 sq km of bush, forest and parks have been burned. A professor of ecology estimates that more than 800 million animals have been killed in the Australian state of New South Wales.
It was also just revealed that a 737-800 flown by Ukraine International Airlines crashed Wednesday (Jan. 8) morning shortly after taking off from the Tehran International Airport in Iran. Apparently 176 passengers and crew perished and recent reports reveal 57 passengers were Canadian, more than half were from Edmonton.
Iranians that lived near the airport initially thought the plane crash was a retaliatory response from the United States. The previous day Iran carried out a ballistic missile attack on air bases housing US forces in Iraq, in retaliation for the US killing of General Qasem Soleimani.
It’s difficult to sort all of this information in our collective conscience. Many of us have been fortunate to have never lived through a famine, a natural disaster, or experienced a war - or an impeding war - as a frightened and helpless civilian. Commercial plane crashes usually happen somewhere else and our Prime Minister - like him or hate him - is predictable and somewhat careful in his decision making.
We’re all connected though. Not always through blood, but because we make up humanity. Even an ocean or a few continents away we’re unsettled when other humans are affected by turmoil, some of us more so when animals are impacted.
Perhaps our menial distractions have purpose and allow us to carry on. The weight of empathy we feel for others can be eased, even a little, when we live our lives the way we know best.