What is there, really, to be said on days like this? Though it might sound ironic coming from a writer, I think at its deepest level experience is beyond words, but its experiences like 9/11 that make it seem pointless to even try. What do Harry Potter and Jane Austen matter at times like this? I think that is a very fair question. What's the point of books and art when people are dying and hungry and poor and afraid?
Books can't give people food and water and shelter. For some people this is reason enough to consider fiction a waste of time. And its true, books don't fulfill those most basic needs. But I would suggest that books and art fulfill an even deeper need, and on the grand scale are even more important then food and shelter. Events like September 11th are symptoms of a much larger and more pervasive disease.
We humans are so stuck inside ourselves. Fear, greed, pride, bigotry, hate--all the reasons behind things like terrorist attacks and other crime--are a result of people not being able to see past themselves.
Basically, we need books to take us outside ourselves.
Reading and art gives us knowledge, experience, and understanding. We feel things we might never have otherwise felt, and see things through a very different perspective. I think that, often, just the experience of having an outside center of focus, no matter what it is, can be enough of a wake-up call and paradigm shift to get us to have even a moment of trying to see things from someone else's perspective before we act. This is a bit of a silly, tongue-in-cheek question, but I wonder how many members of Al Quaida or the Taliban have read Pride and Prejudice? And vice versa; how many of us have read the Quoran?
So sometimes things suck. Sometimes people hurt other people. Sometimes the world seems like its full of hurt and people who don't care. We need to care. As individuals we should try and comfort and give and donate, and do whatever we can to, in the words of nerdfighters everywhere, end world suck. But as far as a world collectively, you know what we the world could do to help and really get at the root of the problem?