Boston, Some Thoughts (Not Mine)

Boston, Some Thoughts (Not Mine) April 17, 2013

I’m tired of writing pastoral blog posts in response to horrible, tragic things.  I wrote something like that here…and here and probably some other places, too.

boston

The thing is, there’s only so much you can say about such events.  Even those of us who like to express ourselves with words run out of them.

Especially in situations like these.

Because when terrible things happen, like what happened in Boston (and New York and Virginia and Newtown), mostly I just want to curl up in a ball and withstand the inevitable process of horror->curiosity->relief->guilt for feeling relieved that’s running through me…you know the routine.

I’d like to think I can summon some meaningful words, but very often I’m too preoccupied with trying to make any kind of sense of it for myself; it seems too hard to take on the challenge of trying to speak words of comfort for everybody else.

Worse, for those of us who peddle hope and resurrection, events like these cause dismay and discouragement rise up and color the air around us.  I feel like I say all the time, “Come, let’s build a better world together!  Let’s usher in God’s best hopes for our world!  Let’s change things, even when it seems like things can’t change!,” and when something like this happens (AGAIN) I begin wonder if I even believe my own self anymore.

So this time around I’m not going to write anything much.  Instead, I’ll lean on the real professionals, those who have deeper wells to draw on.  Here are some thoughts from Anne Lamott.

Frederick Buechner wrote, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

But it is hard not to be afraid, isn’t it? Some wisdom traditions say that you can’t have love and fear at the same time, but I beg to differ. You can be a passionate believer in God, in Goodness, in Divine Mind, and the immortality of the soul, and still be afraid. I’m Exhibit A. 

The temptation is to say, as cute little Christians sometimes do, Oh, it will all make sense someday. Great blessings will arise from the tragedy, seeds of new life sown. And I absolutely believe those things, but if it minimizes the terror, it’s bullshit.

My understanding is that we have to admit the nightmare, and not pretend that it wasn’t heinous and agonizing; not pretend it as something more esoteric. Certain spiritual traditions could say about Hiroshima, Oh, it’s the whole world passing away.

Well, I don’t know.

I wish I could do what spiritual teachers teach, and get my thoughts into alignment with purer thoughts, so I could see peace and perfection in Hiroshima, in Newton, in Boston. Next time around, I hope to be a cloistered Buddhist. This time, though, I’m just a regular screwed up sad worried faithful human being. 

There is amazing love and grace in people’s response to the killings. It’s like white blood cells pouring in to surround and heal the infection. It just breaks your heart every time, in the good way, where Hope tiptoes in to peer around. For the time being, I am not going to pretend to be spiritually more evolved than I am. I’m keeping things very simple: right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe; telling my stories, and reading yours. I keep thinking about Barry Lopez’s wonderful line, “Everyone is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together; stories and compassion.”

That rings one of the few bells I am hearing right now, and it is a beautiful crystalline sound. I’m so in.


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  • Love your thoughts here. I share much of what you say. I would add my hope that we demonstrate the same range of emotions for people and places around the world who live in terror much more often than we who are privileged to live in the USA do. Our hurt should not be more privileged than the hurt of others. Our anger, sadness and emotion ought not translate into more hatred for Muslims, immigrants, and people from the Arab world.