Perhaps the thing that has changed for me is a newfound and intense interest in the Local. I do not know about glacier refuge, but I do know of armed Fulani herdsmen who infiltrated my uncle’s house in Jos, Nigeria. I do not know about marine isotope stages, but I do know what my firefighter cousin tells me about the diverse mandate of his work. I do not know about the world, but I do know about downtown New Haven.
People have been asking me – I, who tampered with his TV channels for so long a few years ago that he missed the opening minutes of a Super Bowl – for solutions regarding our climate. I have no policy prescriptions and even less faith in their implementation, but I do have faith in horses. Or rather something that horses can sometimes do to us. For us. I believe in books, stories, that alchemical way of communicating to someone that they are not alone.
A decade and a half ago, I worked at a Barnes & Noble campus and one of my co-workers had just read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” As an indemnity, he said he is not a big reader. But he just had a son, and reading the book, he claimed, changed how he looked at the world around him, how he looked at his newborn son, how he looked at his family’s place in it watched everything. I like to think it was because he saw something of himself in the characters. A possible future that metaphorizes the difficulty of caring for his offspring? A mimesis of his relationship with his own father? Something completely different? I do not know, but whatever was communicated, the fact of its communication meant that he was not alone for the duration of that lecture.
I promised myself that I would not write anything tractional about representation in response to the question of “What is reality?” so I will say that I think, whatever our future is, suffering is inevitable. The future of climate dystopia has already dawned everywhere in the Pacific, in the Sahel, in Central Europe, on the eastern and western coasts of North America, and it is most felt by the least of us, the ever-forsaken. If this were the whole of my reality, hopelessness would have been the order of the day. But I return to God, not as patina, but as substrate. I return to that idea that there is an order, a Writer, for it all, and horses. They appear in the post-apocalypse of “Goliath,” amidst the least among us, the always forsaken, for a reason. To say, “You may have lost everything, but you did not lose me, whoever I am. Here, too, is magic, at the end of the world. ”
I do not have God to give to you, and I do not have horses, but I have my books, my stories, the promise that you will not be alone today for the duration of your engagement, and the crazy hope that tomorrow , the same will be true.
Tochi Onyebuchi is the author of “Riot Baby” and, most recently, “Goliath.”