This essay is my contribution to Molly Templeton’s How-To Issue project, a response to the gender inequality in the New York Times Book Review 2012. You can read about how the How-To Issue started here. You can also read this post over at the Issue.
1. Allow yourself to face the problems. The world is far from perfect. Mitt Romney will run for president and announce an extreme right-wing running mate who thinks Ayn Rand’s economic philosophy is inspirational. A mass murderer will kill twelve people in a movie theater, and another will shoot up a Sikh temple during worship. The New York Times Book Review, in 2012, will act like the feminist movement never happened and only publish two how-to essays by women: “How to Cook a Clam” and “How to Raise Your Kids.”
2. Get angry about these events, and release your anger. Don’t let it seep into your bloodstream and poison you into sullenness; let it out. Rant at the television news anchors, call and vent to a friend, write a journal entry. If you’re going to make empty threats, make them original. Threatening to move to Canada is so 2004.
3. Stop ranting. Transform the sparks of your anger into intelligent, well-argued statements aimed at people of influence, such as voters and congressmen. Make the phone calls; write the letters. That is, if you’re not actually moving to Canada.
4. Remind yourself to look at the beauty. A woman in Afghanistan found a way to get hydroelectric power to her village. A recent college graduate is traveling around the world doing favors for people. A freaking Adele song woke a British girl up from a coma. The American Cancer Society was able to give $5.5 million to Illinois researchers, double what they gave last year.
5. Do not spend too much time questioning the beautiful things. Avoid criticizing them because they are smaller than the seemingly insurmountable problems, or because they could be more beautiful, or because they do not represent a whole and perfect solution. Just acknowledge them, and be grateful.
6. Expect solutions instead of more problems. A cynic expects people to be self-interested, and avoids doing anything out of a philosophy that creating solutions is not worthwhile. Instead, expect people to be generous. They often are. If you sometimes meet with disappointment, you are still bound to have more success than someone who did nothing because she was pre-disappointed.
7. Create more beauty. Don’t be overwhelmed with the idea that you must create perfection, or solve a large and complicated problem with one solution. This is how people grow passive. Just begin with something small: a newspaper article, a piece of art, a favor for a stranger. Meet up with other people who are creating similar beautiful things. Focus on what you’re creating, and on crafting solutions, instead of being at war with the problems. Invite more people, expect their generosity, and be grateful. This is how to stay in love with a world that seems broken: to become the part of it that seeks wholeness.