You Hold My Life In Your Hands


Yesterday, just as I was falling off to sleep, a disturbing thought hit me: so, my kids and their friends are fanning out into the world.

Because they are a gifted and responsible bunch and perhaps because my friends tend to be artsy-fartsy (eh. Guilty) and/or in entrepreneurial/self employed jobs, their kids seem to have gone out of their way to get the most responsible/serious positions they could. Which means many are in the military, health professions, engineering, civil-engineering or simply writing the software for all of the above.

So I was thinking of these goofy kids who used to get in epic battles over COMIC continuity, and who are now responsible for keeping people alive.  They hold our lives in their hands.  Or people’s hands at any rate.

And because I was falling asleep, I then thought “but we all do, don’t we?”

Which might seem weird for someone whose only (ah!) responsibility is to write a few blogs, make up stories. Silly right?

Yeah, sort of. Except I know my life was saved at least once (in terms of my not giving in to awful illness) because a book kept my spirits up.

And hey, I know the letters I get.  Sure, I can’t reach out with my words and kill you.  Probably a good thing, honest, given how many times I wake up like a bear with two heads.

But there are times to believe fan notes, that I have the power to keep you going one more day.  Which would mean I have the inverse power too, right?
And then there’s the other side.

Our world is so interconnected — hello, social apes! — that we all influence each other.  Do I know one of you reading this isn’t a surgeon who will be made more (or less) hopeful and alert by my post? Or an airline pilot ready to go out and fly a plane with 360 some lives in his hands?

And note above –most of the no-account, free0lancers that were my friends in my twenties and thirties raised hyper-responsible, hyper- powerful kids.

Mothers influence their children , and a circle of friends and acquaintances.

It’s a web. We all hold each other’s lives in our hands.

And there’s always been — always, since I’ve been alive — a deep and powerful current of “Humanity sucks, I hate it, let’s kill or prevent the lives of most people right now.”

It’s only recently the counter current got any hold, because it’s only recently we acquired a voice.

Remember that.

We’re fighting back against a deeply entrenched position. And it’s time.  We need a lot of hands upholding hope and the future, and a value for humanity at large and people in particular.

It’s time.

Richard Fernandez equates it to the principle of good (or at least the defender of mankind) finally waking up, almost at the brink of destruction.  Finally fighting back.  He explains it all not supernaturally, but through infective “thought memes”.

He’s not wrong. And I’m not wedded to how you explain it. What matters is that we do it.

There is value in life and humanity. Dead nothing might be beautiful, but who is there to admire it.

You hold my life in your hands. We all hold each other’s lives in our hands.

You can’t always be good, and a force for life and strength and light. No one can.  We’re humans. We’re fractured and cracked wide.

But you can strive and work to uphold light and life and good and hope and that the future can be better than the past. You can do the best you can and on balance, positively, save more than you doom.

And that’s enough. And that’s plenty. And that should be more than what we need to fight back.

Because darkness and nihilism are exhausting and dreadful.  And light propagates light.

Go and carry the light. Go and build. Go and push upward, and push others upward, too.

You hold my life in your hands.

You hold the future in your hands.

Be not afraid.


64 thoughts on “You Hold My Life In Your Hands

  1. Do not undervalue the importance of attention to detail, of logic, and of long-term memory retention inculcated by obsessive concern over comic continuity.

  2. I wrote a comment complaining about WP delaying letting me comment, and now I can comment.

  3. I enjoyed reading this today. Thank you. To me, it sounds a bit like the Golden Rule, which is just fine.

  4. Thanks Sarah. The future belongs to those who show up. One of the quotes I keep in my Wisdom file is: “The paralyzing fear of a dark future is a despicable, cowardly reason to deny the next generation their shot at making it brighter.”–Dr. Zero

    As my wife said about the football Mannings, “Sometimes you climb the ladder, and sometimes you ARE the ladder.”

    1. The difficulty is the folks who are the Jacob’s Ladder. You know, they’re not well-anchored, and they’ll flip you off for the slightest provocation. Yet some people still manage to make it to the top.

  5. He explains it all not supernaturally, but through infective “thought memes”.

    Mysterious ways.

    If you presuppose a creative omniscience, it’s difficult to then suppose said omniscience would be surprised by the concept of memes. Or the internet.

  6. Thanks for your blog posts, Sarah! You seriously don’t realize how many mornings when the Army is pushing me into the emotional territory of Thanos that you give me a boost.

  7. I’ve written before that it was your blog, as well as Larry’s and other wonderful folks here commenting on them, that pulled me back from the despair of losing my son to stillbirth. It was these same places, virtual and nebulous as they are, that helped me, and my family, recover after we lost another son.

    You’ve made things better – for me, and by extension, my family.

    So, thank you. Those words aren’t enough.

    I just finished MH:Guardian, looked up and it’s past 4 am when I finished and I really shouldn’t be awake, but I’d been saving the book for ‘when I really needed it’, and I did. And I had flashbacks, but they weren’t unbearable ones, ones that brought Julie really to life for me. I loved reading it, even the parts that tore at me because they tore at me because I understood that pain.

    EAT TOES ❤

        1. Hey! You take back what you said about being ourselves. I have never been myself online and do not wish such a vile canard spread about.

          Online I am far cuter, wittier, wiser, empathetickier, compassionater and braver than myself. My actual self is prone to being sullen, morose, acerbic, bitter and capable of souring vinegar.

          1. I’m sure that the latter description is how … normal folks would perceive us. RL I’m probably quieter – and a lot, LOT ruder – than I am RL.

            I’m also pretty sure most of us are far too lazy to cultivate an online persona.

            (and cute is cute is cute. So there. =p )

            1. I prefer to think of it as having secured my self in a secret remote location.

              Rumours that responsible parties have thrown away the key are not to be believed. (Note for those who do not live with lawyers: the semantic content of that assertion is not that such rumours are false, merely that they are not to be believed.)

              1. The parties who might, in fact, be responsible for such an action, are perhaps irresponsible? But we won’t know until we open that box and… ooops, wrong whatsis.

    1. Know that your insight and relating what you’ve been through in life has been inspiring for others, too, Shadowdancer. Webs run in all directions.

      I’ve been glad you’re here (and a few other places).

  8. But there are times to believe fan notes, that I have the power to keep you going one more day.  Which would mean I have the inverse power too, right?


    I do recall some year ago when you started getting political and there were organized attacks of trolls.  (You know the leftist world will get their panties in a knot when someone like Limbaugh reads your blog on air.)  As far as some of those poor num-nuts could convey — yes your very existence sharing their air was enough to give them conniptions.  😉

  9. Apropos of this post, I have a post of my own that is on point and worth sharing.

    The study was an interesting one, they handed people “lost” wallets. Almost three quarters of the wallets with a lot of money in them got returned. That was the -average- across 40 countries. Some did better than others obviously, but even in shit-poor countries the wallets often were returned.

    Contrary to popular culture and Hugo award winners, human beings are not assholes. You can break them and -make- them be assholes, with enough work, but it is difficult and requires a totalitarian torture state to do it. And even then, a lot of people still aren’t assholes.

    Sarah said: “And because I was falling asleep, I then thought “but we all do, don’t we?”

    Yes, we all do. Anybody who says different is a saboteur.

      1. Its out there, you do have to dig for it though. There’s a whole industry trying to make us believe nobody will return the wallets, whereas reality EVEN IN HELL HOLES is that -most- people will.

        I think this might be the fundamental difference between anime and Western television. In anime, everybody will return the wallet. In Hollywood, nobody will.

        I’m damn tired of the lying about it. Humans are good. That assholes exist doesn’t change that.

        1. I think this might be the fundamental difference between anime and Western television. In anime, everybody will return the wallet. In Hollywood, nobody will.

          The unrealistic thing there is that they pick up the wallet at all– although usually they find it in a box or something, right?– because the penalties for theft are VERY strong.
          (There use to be a big crime problem in Japan. Use to be.)

          1. In Japan, the police act as a lost and found bureau. And since everywhere very populated there are “police boxes” (tiny police stations with just a couple of police in them, mostly just to be on call to anyone nearby), it is easier to drop lost items off with the police than otherwise.

            Also, if you steal things, the Yakuza get mad at you.

            1. In my defense, I was exhuased.

              I left my card in an ATM.

              34 hours later I found out I’d really screwed up the days of dozens, because they would not touch it…..

      2. “Good news” tends to be “something that could have been really bad news wasn’t.” A plane with no functional engines landing successfully on the Hudson without loss of life is good news. A plane landing successfully at the end of the journey is not good news — it’s just news.

        Who’s going to write a news story about “Man, dog meet; no bite occurs”?

    1. I’ve found and returned wallets before; at least two of them had significant amounts of money, and the rest had little money but important IDs. The THREE times I didn’t was because I couldn’t – there was nothing in the wallet except money (and those times, were only small amounts of money, which I didn’t keep). No letters, or notes, or ID, nothing. If there is something in the wallet that will give me the slightest chance of attempting to track the owner down, I will attempt to give it back.

      1. Had my lost wallet found once– and stolen.

        Was returned, with only the money that the thief (or one of the four others involved) thought wouldn’t be noticed missing…and the DEA card for my buddy sitting on top, next to my military ID. ^.^

        That was only after the ladies that ran the truck stop had recognized the guy on the video and the police had ‘politely’ requested he show up for a discussion.

        1. I’m a believer in karma – not the ‘you did bad things in your last life so you get punished for it in the next one’ – but rather, good deeds come back to you, as do bad ones, in your lifetime. It might not come back immediately, but later on. Sort of ‘we make our own luck’ sometimes.

          There’s also having seen people take so much effort in their being mean, petty, awful people. I used to watch people get so obsessed in ‘getting back’ at folks for small slights, imagined or otherwise, or similar attitudes in life. I’m waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too lazy for that. I’d rather spend my energy on other efforts, y’know? And being minor evil is just more effort than I’d rather take breathing.

          1. *nod*

            Mom’s first teaching job, there was a kid who basically ran the local high school gang.

            Mom straightened him up (yay, growing up with brothers and being a track star) WITHOUT him getting hauled to jail.

            Fifteen years later, we’re in a really bad financial state after moving…and mom gets a phone call. It’s the kid’s mom, who it turns out now works at the bank that handles the accounts for the automatic-deduction-savings account that school had used, and she was the one who happened to do the paperwork for when the state was going to confiscate inactive accounts.

            She’d recognized mom’s name, remembered enough to find mom AFTER a name-change and three moves, and gotten a hold of the phone number to pass on the number to call to claim it.

            Mom didn’t even think she’d done anything that big, since it was her JOB to teach the kids.
            (The boy had pulled a knife on mom; she disarmed him, hooked her thumb into his jaw under the tongue– think like putting a bit into a reluctant horses’ mouth– and dragged him to the office. Reported it as “getting mouthy,” iirc, but didn’t ever mention the knife.)

                  1. *cannot argue*

                    Guys in my shop thought I was joking about my family, until I offered pictures and thumbnail biographies of each.

  10. I’m exactly whom you are referring to. Son of a WW2 navy vet, retired army and providing anesthesia for 32 years. Rare to never commenter but always a reader. I feel fortunate to have been driven to do exactly that: take care of people everyday.

  11. “But you and all the kind of Christ
    Are ignorant and brave,
    And you have wars you hardly win
    And souls you hardly save.”
    —GKC, =The Ballad of the White Horse=

  12. It’s a web.
    Some people manage to turn that into collectivism. But it’s true without adding that baloney. It does take a village to raise a child – but without turning it into a gov’t-run daycare.
    If we don’t live for each other, then we’re not doing it right.

    It’s only recently the counter current got any hold
    Oh, it’s always had a hold – or we wouldn’t have made it this far. But it sure seemed to be letting it slip through its grasp recently. Now it’s decided to grab hold of the rope again. (BTW, that’s gonna HURT.)
    That’s encouraging.

    You can do the best you can
    Even if you don’t manage more positive than not, you do the best you can. Because it’s all you CAN do. Unless you want to aim for destruction. And, then you and me need to have a talk – well, you and me and this clue bat.

    Mind you, I’ve always had a strong misanthropic streak. I’ve been a loner a lot in life.
    What has made a difference is understanding all these people were created by God. It arrests any nihilism in its tracks. He made them and values them, just as He made me and values me. And He made us a people (aside from specific peoples), that is community, family.
    It’s why His commands are so often centered on not hurting (and actively helping) others – our neighbors. Because, whether you see it or not, you DO make a difference. You DO impact all of those others made “in His image”.

    Even if it’s just raising a son who’s a better man than you.

    (I hope nothing in the above crosses the line for comments here.)

  13. You’ve had a big effect on me, Sarah. The rest of you too. Whenever the Zwilniks get me down, I have you to come home to.

  14. “Dead nothing might be beautiful, but who is there to admire it.”

    [Have to doubt I could do much of anything to improve this truly impressive original post. But perhaps I could echo it adequately..?]

    (Warning, the following is all vignette-grade material based on an earlier vignette, read at your own risk.)

    Quiet, rosy-fingered lightning crawled across the surface of a near-sphere just over a furlong in diameter, centered on the three-hundred-ton bulk of the Royal Air Ship “Dauntless” — her flattened hydrogen balloon at roughly half that size above, and expedition carrier (much like two saucers joined rim to rim) below. And it displaced a sweeping view of half-a-mile-deep ice and snow in favor of a lower and more evidently congenial one of grassy fields and growing trees.

    Emma Hartwell looked up from the enlarged, improved Magickal Orrery and announced, calmly and only a little merrily, “Three hundred and seventy-nine quanta of Circumstantial Time, spot on target.” Normally impossible to Leap so far with any degree of control, of course, but neither the equipment nor the operator counted noticeably toward normal. “Destination reached and verified, Sir Percival Lord Lykkenbrugge,” she said quite formally. Almost nobody who did not know her quite well could’ve detected the near-shudder in her voice as she said that last.

    There was something of a muted, ragged cheer from the carrier below and its cadre of several dozen cadets to Her Majesty’s Air and Time Service. Only a week in the frostbound, perpetual Ice Age winter of the last stop had brought some of them already to a deep-dyed loathing of that variant timeline and its “magnificent desolation.” The cheers which had recently greeted the return of the ship and its history-hopping engines there had been nothing like muted.

    “My compliments, Academician and Master Navigator Hartwell,” he said just as formally in turn. “Mr. Rakozy, you have the ship.” He watched as Emma did the few things necessary to shut down and lock the causal drive, then limp (by only a little) over to the large window of half-inch tempered Venetian glass.

    The view, as they drifted on the prevailing wind nearly toward London-local, was so close to pastoral, only the care and attention of human hands was (if you looked discerningly enough) noticeably absent. With only a tiny bit of his attention, he marked that his first officer was overseeing the startup of the air engines and the logging of the Leap and its minutiae, as competently as he could reasonably have wanted. Most of his attention was on what was before him, what he was here to present forthrightly to the cadet corps below.

    “Almost looks peaceful, so green and beautiful,” Emma said. Almost musingly.

    “It could be now, like the others, if we’d chosen so,” Percival Loring responded, just as low and at her elbow.

    “I’m sure, having spent half a year at their histories, that it was as green when the soft green clouds rolled across it, seven years or so ago by the sun and the stars here. Beauty in its own way, but a caustic and costly one.” It was colder than the ice had been, in her voice, the knowledge of what they approached.

    She grunted, in a way not unbecoming to the Empire’s current foremost meta-historian and one of its best navigators outside the Shovel family themselves. “Like a fine verdant-silk dress, this new-greening world. But of course, they did pay far too much to buy it.”

    Percy smiled despite himself, “Your irony has a good razor’s well-honed edge sometimes, Emma.”

    And there was no more warmth in her answering smile. “Sharp as a Dedekind cut and just as mathematically precise. What the sons and daughters of old Cloudsley Shovel do with their brilliant intuition, I and my like must learn to do with cold and unvarying precision in its place. And the skill… travels.” That near shudder, there in her voice again. “In other ways than diatemporally. And here, at such a fine black-flag world as this…”

    “Approaching the edge of the city soon, Captain, Master Navigator.” Trust such a man as Istvan Rakozy to keep it that simple, in a voice touched only lightly with Hungarian march-time music. And to emphasze her old military title not her far-newer civilian one.

    “Then bring us to observation height, Mr. Rakozy, your own best judgment.”

    “Shall we, my lord?” There was only a touch of irony in Emma’s voice as she waved at the spiral staircase down, through the bird-boned structural filligree of the connecting column, to the add-on expedition carrier below. And to the waiting cadets; most of them likely at the windows already, few or none with even a glimmer of a clue.

    They called it the Gloom and Doom Cruise or the Doleful Journey, he knew, often and well enough in advance. But they’d *never*, in all his experience to date, ever truly spoiled *this* surprise with specifics, to those unblooded by it.

    Maybe that was because they knew words could never do it justice.

    It was obvious enough when they’d crossed from countryside to city outskirt, at the edge of what had probably been the old city wall. Simply from the softly raised voices and their… odd timbre.

    “Thirty to forty thousand tons of refined chlorine; liquefied, transported by air, and revolatilized upwind by the local Empire of France. Not nearly the worst ‘ultimate weapon’ we’ve heard tell of, but bad enough.” Emma sounded more like an academic than an orator, but she’d learned long ago that tone, that ‘flat affect’ as someone had once called it, was best. “Heavier than air, lying on the ground like a blanket, rolling in like misty green fog as it displaced the very air, suffocating then poisoning who and what so ever breathed.”

    Many of the cadets had stopped looking out the windows, at the empty and unkept houses, the cars and carts and harnesses in the streets, the heaps of what had been people and horses and… everything, and started to look at her instead. “And we can actually fly over *this*, or even land, because chemical weapons dissipate. The retaliatory attack, on the Continent, used a mutated plague bacterium from an island off Africa, grown in vats. The yellow jack will likely fly everywhere over there for generations — and *we* won’t lose people to finding out it’s too soon.”

    Emma’s voice shifted a shade toward the personal. “You probably know I’m a historian, now; you might even know I’ve spent months reading what they left behind. And this was not a war of conquest, of self-defense, of religion, even of mad mutual hatred. It was instead a war of faith gone wrong. A fear become idea become prophecy become self-fulfilling prophecy, over a mere handful of decades; an obsessive belief in the *certainty* of an apocalypse, mora certa, hora incerta, but at the level of two entire societies and much of the world.”

    And though there was no signal, Percy took up the tale as smoothly as if she had passed him a baton.

    “And you know by now, firsthand, how *rare* this is over *all* the worlds we’ve been to, the Air Service and our whole so-called Coldwater Empire. There are simply not very many of these… ah, dead-ends to be found; perhaps very many ‘new’ ones with nobody or nobody much there, but few where they just — well, to say it the way many rankers would, mucked it all up stark.

    “Every one of us, even outside the Service, helps make the future, all of our fate in all of our hands, all the time. No man, as the man wrote once, is an island. It *matters* in what potential we put our faith, for *that* is what we will *surely* achieve, in the end and together, whether it’s sooner or later.

    “So take care, *great* care, in what you put your faith. But also take heart.

    “Despair is the exception, Hope is the rule, Faith is the difference.

    “Never forget that — and remember always to *do* it, not merely *believe* it.”

    And his voice, so soft and scalpel-edged before, rose at once to a thundering, cannon-broadside, whip-crack roar. Grim as the cracks in the pavement below and the bones piled and scattered upon it.

    “Or, and *despite* all the odds, YOU get THIS — because YOU MAKE THIS.”

    And everything they’d seen and done in decades of service looked out their eyes as they stood together, backs to the windows and their colder view.

    “Choose wiser,” Emma said, almost in a whisper that still carried like a shout, “do better, because the fate of many worlds will soon be in your hands too.”

    1. That’s almost like a steampunk-based story idea I had back in 2013, where Europe had decided to save the world by forcing everyone to return to a Green-Party paradise level of technology… What’s really a little scary is how much Environment has replaced Christianity as the dominant religion in parts of Europe…

  15. A bit like John C. Wright’s essay on “The Golden Book.” We never know which words or stories will inspire someone, what comfort or strength they will bring. Fiction, essay, poetry, a little joke that saves someone’s day…

    (No link. Am on cell phone on airport WiFi.)

  16. It is so seductive, especially to the young, to think that one is living in the end times. I did, when I was of that age, though then we were concerned about global thermonuclear war rather than plastic straws and too many cows. Belief in the end of days (what used to be called “Millenial” thinking when discussing the period around 1000A.D.) is like a blessing from on high to give in to your desires, to spend, to splurge, to have that romantic encounter. It frees one from the moral obligation to take care of the future, to plan, to save, to educate — for why plan for a future that will never come?

    And yet things have always been ‘tough all over’, we have always been able to destroy ourselves (as P.J. O’Rourke pointed out, Athens managed to destroy themselves without any modern technologies at all). Fire and flood, drought and monsoon, earthquakes, and the Four Horsemen have always been with us.

    I don’t know how, other than by example, to show each generation that tomorrow always does come. (P.J. again “Note to kids — finish your homework; somehow the world never seems to end before the assignment is due”). Feynman, telling the story to a rapt audience of how he was convinced that the atomic bomb had made it useless to keep paving roads and building bridges, and how foolish that had been, how good it was that people kept on doing those things, for they had been right and he had been wrong. Families who go on, having and raising children and teaching them right from wrong, thrift and work, while the Crazy Years rage on about them. But stories have always been how that culture gets transmitted, from the Bible to Homer to Polybius through Kipling and Chesterton to Verne, Wells, and Smith, to Heinlein and hence to those who carry the torch today.

    Including our hostess.

    1. To any person with a proper understanding of Time and the Sequentialist Heresy, all times are the End Times. We go to our maker in His Time, not our own.

      1. Yes. Live as if the Lord were coming again, today. Because he very well might be – for you.

        1. But also for all of us. This is why one should prepare for one’s own death but also the end of the world. The difference is that if you put all your charitable donations in your will — the end times mean that actually, you have given nothing to anyone.

    2. I don’t know how, other than by example, to show each generation that tomorrow always does come.
      Not necessarily that “tomorrow always comes” (egad, now I have Annie in my head… aaaarrrrgggghhhh!!!), but that there isn’t anything new, and you need to press on ahead: Ecclesiastes. It’s a cure for young and old, imo.

  17. My significant one makes pipe-cleaner roses and gives them away to anyone she encounters. She thinks it an insignificant act, but I’ve seen the shocked and pleased looks on the recipients’ faces, and told her that she may have given them that little lift that will change the balance of their day (she refuses to believe me, but what can you do?) Even the smallest thing can help raise (or lower) the people who encounter it, and stories are no small things.
    There is no point to a world without people. Let’s all do what we can to inspire rather than beat down.
    Thanx for the post, Sarah!

  18. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
    Many has been the day this blog has been one of the influences that helped me to focus on the right things. Thanks

  19. Sarah, I’m another reader who gets encouragement and inspiration from your blog, both from your own words and from the comments of all your friends and supporters here. Thank you for writing this post. It is a good one.

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