Engaging with Evil: Reflections on the Boston Marathon Bombings

What is there to say in the aftermath of yesterday’s devastating attack on the innocent runners and spectators at the Boston Marathon?  I suppose the answer is, paradoxically, nothing and everything.

Nothing, in the sense that words ultimately fail in the face of such a catastrophic event – one that inflicted horrendous physical harm on a hundred or so random individuals who had the utterly bad fortune to be in a particular place at a particular time, and unimaginable emotional distress on all who know and love them.

Everthing, in the sense that words are all we have available to try to make some kind of sense from a tragedy of such magnitude.

And words there will be – many many words, spoken and written, some skillful, some not so skillful, on cable and network television, in newspapers and magazines, on twitter feeds, in the blogosphere.  Everyone trying to somehow express the inexpressible feelings rushing over us, and to somehow explain the inexplicable events happening around us.

Here is one particularly skillful example of written words being put to extraordinarily good use in this endeavor.  It’s an essay in today’s Huffington Post, written by the political columnist Richard Eskow, entitled “The 27th Mile”.  You can read it by following this link …. http://huff.to/15cQtK2.

I want to quote Eskow’s closing paragraphs.  The context, in case you chose not to read the article linked to above, is the enormous outpouring of offers to help by the residents of Boston and its surrounding neighborhoods in the immediate hours after the bombings took place.   Countless people offered to drive into the city, pick up stranded runners who were unable to get through the cordoned-off security area at the finish line to reclaim their personal belongings (street clothes, wallets, car keys, etc.), and provide them with food and a place to stay overnight.

Yesterday the bombs exploded at Mile 26. That was the work of one person, or several people, or many people, who were in the grip of an evil darkness.

But the killing ended there. The people of Boston walked the next mile, the 27th Mile. And after the smoke cleared they chose to walk it together, not alone. They looked into that handful of dust and saw hope, not fear.

When we remember April 15, 2013, let’s remember the 27th mile.

Remembering that 27th mile as we each go about our own daily routine today, tomorrow, and each day after that, just might be the most meningful way that we can engage with – and prevail over – the evil that was done in Boston yesterday.

About Tom Cummings

A life-long news and current events junkie, an occasional political activist and volunteer, and for the past five years a practitioner of daily meditation and a student of Buddhist philosophy, I write this blog to explore what I see as the inherent tensions and contradictions between practicing mindfulness - so rooted in the Buddhist virtues of compassion, generosity, and non-attachment to self - and being an engaged citizen in today's world - where the very opposite traits are all too often the ones that prevail.
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