The fragility of life

When I was at university I did my final dissertation on images of war, and how they impact viewers in other ‘safer’ parts of the world. Recently I’ve been reminded of my research by media images of Syrian refugees. The image of the young boy found on the Turkish beach brought home the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Syria for many of us who are so far away from the reality of what is going on there.

Social media has changed the level of access we have to these kinds of images. We seem closer to what’s going on, and as a result we feel more compelled to take action. Many of us are signing petitions to allow more refugees into the country, making donations and purchasing goods for people in refugee camps. I can see humanity in action everywhere.

What’s changed since I wrote my dissertation (ten years ago!) is that the world seems smaller, it feels like we are closer to the Syrians, the idea that what is happening there, could happen here is becoming more clear, particularly with videos like the Save the Children ‘If Surrey were Syria’ film. It isn’t certain that we will continue to live in security here in the UK. Situations change, people change, discussions change. The real danger is when we believe that it can’t change. Because when we believe that living here will mean that we will forever be safe we become complacent, and potentially lose empathy with those experiencing horror.

The image of the boy on the Turkish beach brought the war home to many of us. What if that was our child, what if we had no option but to get on an over crowded boat in the middle of the night to escape something far worse than what was going on at home.

Life is fragile, and when we step into that perspective it’s easier to see how precious the people and things around us are, and it becomes natural to step into gratitude. Gratitude for the roof over our heads, the access to clean water, the fruits and vegetables lining our shop shelves.

When I acknowledge that life is fragile I start to notice the smaller things, like the sun coming through my window, the way the shower feels on my head, stretching and moving and taking a deep breath. All of it is perfect and precious and fleeting. And I feel so, so grateful.

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