It’s been one hell of a week, hasn’t it?
I mean, sitting here, in bed, in my cosy little house, I feel well and truly apart from the awfulness that’s going on in Boston as I type. It’s almost as though, the second I turn the news off and log out of Twitter, it stops happening – but of course, it doesn’t.
But that’s been a weird sensation I’ve had all week, because on a number of fronts, it’s been a good one in my life. When things like this are going on in the world, it’s hard not to feel a disconnect when things are OK for you personally – like somehow, you’re being insensitive, or uncaring, for just ticking along as normal.
Because it’s not quite normal. It’s a jarring, odd reality wherein day-to-day things feel kind of insignificant against a backdrop of gloom and despair – but there’s nothing you can do about it.
So it feels, anyway. The reports are already bounding around trying to hunt for a reason why two people would want to do something so apparently random and evil, and that’s understandable. We look for reasons when things go wrong – it’s what we do, because it’s easier than dealing with the fact that people can be so irrational, and so cruel.
Unfortunately, this is going to mean endless analysis of why their political, social, religious and ethnic backgrounds may have caused them to do such a horrible thing – but it doesn’t help. By demonising certain cultures, or whatever we eventually, collectively conclude was behind their actions, we’re just making matters worse by causing ever bigger rifts.
I’m not going to talk about this in too much detail because frankly, I’m not knowledgeable or well-versed enough in current affairs to be able to make a totally reasoned judgement – suffice to say, I don’t think sweeping conclusions are going to help.
I don’t think anything helps, really, when we’re faced with acts like that. Whether you’re affected because you’re American, or a marathon runner, a parent, or just a regular ol’ human being, it’s hard to find a way to process these kinds of events which – as my housemate and I were discussing this evening – seem to occur every time you start to forget that they’re possible.
But I do have a couple of thoughts.
We had a session this week at work – and before I tell you this, yes, I do know my job is awesome – where a guy came in to talk about his experience with meditation, and guide us through a meditation of our own. This was right up my street, of course – but one of the things that really stuck with me was this: that when we keep desperately searching for answers, they get harder and harder to find. We get ourselves all knotted up in trying to find the answers to the big questions that we forget to check off the small ones that will really help us, long term.
That was on Monday morning. Monday night, I spent transfixed watching the rolling news and refreshing Twitter for news of people I knew to be running that marathon – and at about 3am, it kind of occurred to me that he might be right.
We, individually, can’t do much to help in stopping acts of terrorism like this, by desperately searching for one clear reason why they’d do such a thing. We can’t help to stop people who are going to do senseless, absurd, violent things any more than we can stop it raining here in Britain the second anyone says the words ‘beer garden.’ These people will still exist, and they’ll still do awful things in the name of some cause they’re claiming justifies it, or even just in the name of having the rolling news show their photo and repeat their name, again and again, into infamy.
But at times like this, in the aftermath of yet another senseless, horrible thing we have to deal with, what we should be doing – the only thing we can do, really – is to try to make things better in our own small way. Find kindness, and use it. Make one person feel better, do one thing that makes the world a little easier to deal with, not just for you, but for someone else. A friend, a family member – hell, a stranger – just make things better.
It doesn’t stop what’s going on across the pond, just as it doesn’t stop what’s going on in Iraq, or the fact that kids are going hungry, or any of the other awful stuff we can only take small steps in trying to fix – but it’ll make the world a little bit more livable for the moment.
It’s no consolation to those really affected, of course – and there are no words for what people go through every time someone bombs a marathon, or shoots people at a cinema, murders children while they’re at school. I couldn’t even begin to know what to say to people in that situation.
But from the outside – a privileged outside – little things are all we can do.