Was Friday the 13th of November, 2015 just an ordinary day?

For the most part yes. I mean, yes there were a lot of differences, certainly, but although the media focused entirely upon the tragedy unfolding in Paris throughout the afternoon/evening/night (depending on timezone), and although my social media feeds were blowing up based upon these particular happenings, and yes my emotions and even my plans for the day altered the more the news came in, the fast majority of the world continued on just as it always has. It seems that every day there are tragedies unfolding of different varieties, violent and non, and well… only certain ones capture the media (and social media etc.) attention.

Paris is a much loved, tourist destination. It's part of an affluent country that many regard highly, but it isn't one without strife, or political and social tensions. I don't think I know of any truly utopian places where there aren't problems… and even if I did, I would suspect that there were some problems hidden away somewhere somehow. The way that we've collectively reacted to this incident (and not to other incidents in certain other countries) tells us a lot about our values. It seems on the surface that we as a society value the lives, safety, and security of those residing in or visiting Paris over those of folks residing elsewhere. And this doesn't sit well with me, as much as I know that I'm not immune from such reactions.

I mean we can't all react with shock and despair every single time something horrible happens. It would paralyze us. Such reations don't work for one's mental health: there are simply too many tragedies, wars, conflicts, etc. So when we do let an incident into our personal spheres of impact, it might hurt sharply but we are not always debilitated by pain, nor are we always numb to such horrific news. Incidents like these in peace time shock and disturb us. And while yes, the news sources are still finding out details about how the attacks happened and who was behind them (I'll leave it up to people who have access to more information than I to provide those pieces of information rather than commenting on them directly myself: in the aftermath of an incident such as this one so much changes between one news report and the next that I'd rather leave it up to time to discover answers).

I think that the better questions for us, as the public not living at the epicentre of this set of tragic incidents, are more difficult than assigning blame, retweeting or posting information to social media, or sharing in the communal sadness (though some of that is mostly understandable: we want answers, we want to grieve, emotional responses and indeed shared emotional responses are human and necessary)

What can we do to help? — and it's more than just donating money, sending condolences, or sharing emergency contact numbers, as much as those actions are important. How can we really impact the future positively?

What can we do to learn to react better? — are there right answers with regards to what to do in this social media rich world? I mean I saw a lot of folks correcting each other on Twitter yesterday, trying to self-police each other's responses to the attacks in Paris. And some of those corrections made a whole lot of sense, whereas others seemed needlessly attacky or mean — but each of us react differently so how do we come up with right answers, really?

How can we be better informed? — and I don't just mean informed in a partisan way. Yes I know and follow people who might have made incredibly rude-seeming responses to the tragic events but whose responses followed their political ideologies. Yes I know folks whose honest-to-goodness questions about what was going on seemed like them just trying to better understand what was going on but whose comments sprang from not knowing. I don't just mean better informed about this specific incident: I mean better informed about the world at large. Why is it that I didn't know about the tragic events in Beirut the day previous to the Paris attacks? How can I better understand the world in which I live?

How can we change to better prevent such tragedies in the future? — This might be one of the more difficult questions especially at the individual person level. And I don't claim to have answers, because there are innumerable reasons why such horrible things might happen and they don't all have to do with political ideology or anything else logical or rational. One should not just stop living because something horrible has happened or could happen… but there are things people are doing everyday in the hopes that they'll help. We don't all agree about whether or not those things are the right ones, however.

And what would we do if something this horrible were to happen here? — Maybe this is just a thought experiment for those of us located so far away (an ocean away at least for many of us) from this latest set of incidents, but it's some food for thought. Personal safety and security are important. For some of us, learning first aid is important. For others, having emergency supplies might be of greater importance. Similarly backup battery power, connections via internet/phone/smoke signal etc. might be crucial. It's impossible to prepare for everything, really.

Finally, how do we cope with a world that so often shares its horrors with us? — This might be personal. It might mean modulating how much news one consumes. It might mean turning off live feeds, and only reading static news articles. It might mean going to the movies, or going out with friends or putting the cell phone down for a bit and having some fun. It might mean eating some good food, taking a relaxing bath, or having a good sleep. Some folks might need to go seek out help from professionals: THAT IS MORE THAN OKAY. I seek out friends and help in the form of conversation, hugs, good books, food, etc. I like to continue to engage in life. Continue to have fun. Listen to some good music. It's not always easy to cope with what often seems like a very scary world outside. But sometimes I find solace in statistics. Sometimes I find social media helps me. Sometimes I find writing helps. Sometimes it's all about taking things one second, one minute, one hour, one day at a time etc.

To everyone reading this… yes, every day is an ordinary, extraordinary day. Let's try to make the most of each one.