I first learned of the Boston Marathon tragedy in the midst of – of all things – a mid-day run. And as I learned more and more throughout the day and evening, a feeling of nausea set in.
Marathons are the Holy Grail of fitness to me, and not merely because of the admirable mileage covered. I have watched my friends and colleagues train together, I have grown up knowing people who wake up early just to stand by the sidelines and hand an anonymous runner a paper cup of water. I have watched folks raise millions of dollars for cancer research, homeless children, foreign aid. To run a marathon is not just about athletic achievement – it is about camaraderie and being a part of something bigger than ourselves. So a marathon? It’s the ultimate display of determination and connection. It is about passion. It is about feeling supported and safe.
My first impulse was to feel furious that we exist in such a cruel, awful time. I found myself saying things like “We live in a sick world!” and using a word I rarely speak: “Hate.” But then…without any conjuring…into my head popped a passage from my favorite poem. Max Ehrmann’s ‘Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life’. And I knew that anger was not the answer. “In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul,” it begins…
We’re all well-versed in the laws of opposition and the sober truths of our world: in order to have the good we must know the bad. No sweet without sour, no peace without war, no joy without sorrow. Still, is this any consolation when tragedy strikes? It’s unjust, unexpected, grossly unfair. Whether it is a personal tragedy experienced within our own familiar circle or a national tragedy experienced by an entire population – we feel it. Empathy is instinctual. “It could have been me,” we think. “It could have been my sister, my brother, my best friend. I could have been there.”
We are all interconnected. Life is quite simply an energy exchange; we are all responsible for the education and growth of everyone else around us. Our minds and hearts each possess equal capacities for thought and feeling, and we are all gifted with the exact same capabilities – we simply learn to access and use them in different ways, at different times.
So when tragedy hits one of us, it hits all of us. It awakens that primal feeling of grief and loss, of where-do-I-go-now? And in trying to cope or understand, it is so very easy to fall into the trap of hate and anger.
In times of tragedy, we feel in unison. That equal capacity for thought and emotion? The same door unlocks in each of us and our reactions become a harmony. We have a choice in the song we sing – so we must choose wisely, despite the inevitable hurt and pain.
We must choose to put aside the malicious battle call, and instead sing the beautifully dissonant song of mourning and reverence. One that lights up from the inside like a pulsing candle flame – not a forest fire of destruction.
I see the images of people acting on their first impulses, running TOWARDS the explosion to help. My Facebook page is filled with 26.2 mile memorial runs the very next morning. And I remember that all of life is an energy exchange, and my anger is doing no one any good. It is not helping families and friends heal. It is not saving the injured, repairing the city, and it is certainly not tipping the peace:destruction ratio in favor of the former.
Our hearts are crying, but the best thing I think we can do is keep loving the world and seeing the best in it, even with its nicks and cuts and shattered pieces. We will never not know tragedy or sadness. But how we react will inform the collective heart of our planet. We must never lose sight of the fact that, yes, we CAN conquer hate with love. Yes, we have the power to heal. Yes, only light can drive out the darkness.
“In the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” – Max Ehrmann