Pressure cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon? The random violence seems endless. After I begin to absorb what has happened part of my mind goes through the same thought process it does every time something like this happens: First it compares where I live and what I do to the scene of the violence to assess whether I live in a more or less vulnerable situation. It always decides that it is less dangerous to live in a smaller town rather than a big city. And then it thinks about whether I'll ever again attend an event that draws huge crowds. Then it calls up the information that I live 13 miles from the Seabrook Nuclear power plant and 7 from the Naval Shipyard, where they repair nuclear submarines. I live in a pretty vulnerable spot in this age of terrorism. My brain begins to plan our move. Is Rochester far enough? Maybe Conway is far enough. Then my brain calls up the story about my college classmate whose car broke down on the side of the road in a rural place and bad things happened to her. I watch my brain run through this circuit after every tragedy. This is what my mind does with the panic and the grief.
We are vulnerable no matter where we live, no matter what we do. I think that is part of why I get angry with these acts of violence; the perpetrators take advantage of our vulnerability. The spiritual and emotional work is to stay vulnerable, not run off to the mountains. I don't mean to walk bare foot into a mine field. I mean stay in your life despite the real and obvious risks. I've been reading other people's responses and they describe how they will stay vulnerable to the current heartbreak and to the risks of life. One colleague writes about being a runner and that running is an act of peace: http://revsarahstewart.typepad.com/blog/2013/04/running-for-peace.html.
Another writes about getting engaged a few years ago at about the same spot where the bomb went off on Monday: http://emilycheath.com/2013/04/15/boylston-street/.
Keep running. Keep falling in love. It means grief and heartache for sure; but how else do we find each other in the world? How else do we create days of joy and reclaim our own bodies? How else do we make something larger than grief and violence than with kindness?
I think I'll spend the rest of the week learning this poem by heart, to sustain me and others through the sorrow and confusion that has come around again:
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.