Yesterday, flushed and grateful from the doctor’s decree that I was a “healthy young woman,” I biked home, fell, scraped up my leg badly, and got a text from a friend about the Boston marathon bombings.
Thrown into sharp relief.
I’m not a Bostonian, or a runner, but as human–and less importantly, an American–of course I’m grieving. As are my friends and family. I was going to post something silly today, but maybe this would be a better time to remind ourselves of certain things. And of course, an onlooker’s response in the face of tragedy will always feel a little bit petty. But I think that if we don’t think, in moments like these, than the evil wins.
“We interpret life at moments of the deepest desperation.” –Roberto Bolaño
“Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you.” –David Foster Wallace
1. Don’t take anything for granted.
All this week I’ve had this odd premonition that I need to be more grateful for my good health, when so many people are fighting for their lives against disease. And now this. It’s not self-centered to turn inward for a minute and feel deep gratitude for all the things you’ve been given, and all the things you hold close. Especially other people.
If there can be said to be anything remotely positive about tragedies that shake the nation, it’s that the relief between good and evil is heightened more than ever. First we think: who the fuck did this? I hate them. And then we see humanity rising to its highest, truest form: goodness. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I tend to go through life slightly irritated with everyone I encounter. That slow barista. That driver on his cell phone. It’s easy to forget to love our fellow humans, and even easier to forget that we are more all the same than we are different. This article made me cry.
Relief between good and evil.
Bring relief to.
3. Stop comparing everything!
Now is the time when holier-than-thou people on Facebook creep out of the woodwork and remind us that people are being slaughtered and bombed the entire world over. True, it’s frighteningly easy for Americans to forget that the rest of the world is embroiled in violence greater and more persistent than anything we know. But a human life is a human life, and comparison is a thief. And there is nothing wrong with letting a country mourn its own dead. I don’t understand why my generation has this obsessive need to congratulate themselves for their own philanthropy on Facebook. In the realm of the unreal.
5. And hate.
My dad always told me it’s okay to hate what is evil. I don’t think it’s okay to answer with hate, but it’s okay to despise the truly evil. The good hates the evil. We’re not good, not really, but the most we can do is try. Actions like the bombing, or the Westboro Baptist Church protesting the Boston funerals (makes me sick just to type that organization’s name): those things are truly despicable. Worthy of hate.
6. Don’t be resigned.
Maybe the world is “just like this.” But don’t be resigned to it. We don’t have to be okay with it.
7. But love.
I don’t know what else we can do in a world where truly terrible things happen every day. Where life is so fragile that any maniac can destroy it. Where we don’t own our own life, but have to hold on to it, desperately, like an heirloom we’re terrified of losing.
There is no relief from what is evil, not today. But good is a weapon, too–a sharper one, I think.