I was going to write today about the aging and broken grey poplar at the southwest corner of our house, and the discussion as to whether or not it needs to come down.
It will have to wait.
So many things I do not understand. The Boston Marathon is a moment of joy in a hardened world. It’s an icon of hope for global engagement and peace; it symbolizes a potential for healing in our broken lives,both individual and collective; it stands for beauty and resilience, for courage, for a profound commitment not only to live the lives we are given, but for the hope of transformation.
I honestly don’t know what we are supposed to do with the day’s bombings in Boston. With the deaths and the injuries, and the understanding that this particular woundedness is reflective of the violence and injury around the world, in every pocket, human and non-human ~ earth, sky, water, creature.
I don’t know how to hold this day, this beautiful and iconic and perfectly sun and blue sky day. How do we hold this against the violence we we want so badly to flee in our day to day, hour to hour world? How do we look at it, straight on? How do we come to know today in Boston as symptomatic of the deepest possible wound of disconnection?
Maybe the next question, is how do we choose to live?
This is what I know, and believe me, it is scant comfort in the face of tragedy that we in the privileged west can’t begin to know. Some know it. If I were to hazard a guess from an embarrassingly comfortable place, I would say that our servicewomen and men know, I would say that our embedded journalists might know, I would say that those to whom this country has given asylum know and know best.
This is what is on my heart tonight.
We cannot turn away.
We cannot fix it.
We cannot address all of it.
We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of numbness.
We are not allowed to think that what happens in Boston is any more or less significant than what is happening with the lost girls of Sudan, or the baby seals lost to the hunt, or the diminishing rainforest, or the casualties of the drone strikes, or the attempted dismissing and disempowerment of Occupy, or the West Virginia mountain top removal, or your next door neighbor’s clearcut of 400 acres, or female genital mutilation, or the open fire on the students and faculty in Newtown, and there is no end.
The violence is systemic and extreme, and we know that constant violence can actually change a person’s brain structure.
The question I am holding is this: how will we choose to live?
I do not know how to do this. Or at least I do not know how to do this well.
I only know this:
there is no “hierarchy” of violence. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about two deaths or two thousand, or two hundred thousand; it doesn’t matter whether these deaths are local or global, human, non-human, mountain, water, air, whether they happen in designated war zones or in Boston, in the lands of the First Nations peoples, or in the West Virginia Coal Country, in the Alberta Tar Sands, or in the Gulf of Mexico, the Persian Gulf, the coral reefs of the world’s oceans, in the illegitimate housing foreclosures, in genetically modified foods, in the rapid extinction of species. “I do not want to die here,” says a Gitmo prisoner . . . there is no hierarchy of violence.
I know this as well. Humans have disconnected ourselves from the natural order. We have forgotten that we are of and not above what Thomas Berry calls the earth community, what Aldo Leopold calls the biotic world. And from this disconnect has emerged a relentless sense of human entitlement, the markers of which – among countless others – are greed, wanton destruction, an alarming shortsightedness of vision, a dispassionate and self-serving government.
This very disconnect is the source and ground of all violence, this I know.
And I know one more thing: the human soul is longing to remember . . . longing to return to its homeland, the markers of which are compassion and kindness, generosity, resilience, courage, and the willingness to release all other markers.
So . . . how do we hold all this? I don’t know, and if I begin to name things, I will forget most things. But still . . . Some of us sit in the Zuccotti Parks of the world; some of us write; some of us rearrange the introvert inside us and take the message on the road; some of us raise children; some of us grow vegetables without fertilizer; some of us simply sit in beauty (my model is our dog Carson, the reincarnation of Ferdinand the Bull); we write poetry; we make art; we build up our communities; we serve the earth community; we love as best we can; we make kindness and generosity our mission; we find ways to engage in healing.
We refuse the option of numb. We refuse to turn away.
It’s not much. But I do believe it’s required, and I do believe it’s enough. This is what is asked of us.