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Finding Perspective.

I don’t know how to find perspective in wake of this most recent violence in Boston, just an hour from where I call home. Twelve years ago, I had perspective. I physically witnessed both planes fly into the Towers. I knew people who lost their lives. I heard first-hand personal stories from those I held dear. It was easier then. I was part of the fray, and I was honored to feel the pain from a place of true association. I was allowed to be in the inner circle of what was happening, and from that place, you have perspective. You are entitled to feelings of anger, grief, and sorrow.

But this time, it’s different. I didn’t know anyone who is in peril in a hospital anywhere. I don’t run; hell, I barely walk these days. I don’t follow marathons, nor did I know the history of the Boston Marathon until yesterday, a rich history that is now forever tainted. It’s been almost 24 hours since the bombs went off, and we have no idea who was involved. My gut — which has no right to have an opinion — says it was not international, but some messed up American person or persons who created this carnage on a local level, but will gain global notoriety because of it. But whatever comes from all this, I don’t feel I have a right to feel anything but a sense of voyeurism.

What do we do with what happened if we really have no personal association with it? A friend in Colorado sent me a picture of his snow-laden house this morning and said that more snow was on the way. I wanted to e-mail him back, “I don’t give a good God damn about snow, idiot, an eight-year-old boy was blown to bits after hugging his father who had just crossed the finish line, and you want to talk about snow? Who are you?” I have another friend who makes it all about her, even though she wasn’t there and knows no one who was affected. Perspective. Where do we Americans belong in these moments? How do we find perspective?

We are the only species that kills each other randomly for no reason. Okay, those who perpetrate these cowardly acts of terror will say there is a reason, but truth be told, there was no reason to kill that young boy, take away his sister’s limb, and put his mother in the Critical Care Unit of Mass General. No reason at all as far as I can tell. Why do we do that? What does it mean?

I search for answers at times like these, and I know that I will not find them. Gaining perspective, or finding a place to put feelings of grief, rage, and sorrow at times like these is impossible for me. Then time passes, feelings fade, and we move on with our lives with nothing much changed or gained. I have to believe there is something more here. I have to believe that we should be able to find something that helps put these kinds of events in perspective, or better yet, give us some tools to stop the next one.

I have to say that I strongly dislike (trying to keep the bad juju out of my life by using words like hate) the religious talk we hear at times like this. “God has a reason.” “At times like these, turn to God, who will give you strength and healing.” Seriously? If I were God, I’d shake my head and say, “You are on your own on this one people. Who have you become? This has nothing to do with me.” Yesterday, a dear friend of mine, with whom I share a love/hate relationship when it comes to religion and politics, said that the moral decline of the country was because families weren’t going to church. She would say that was not her point, but I would say it was. Perspective.

I want to go to sporting and other events with a song in my heart and no fear in my belly. My fabulous daughter, Sarah, graduated from Law School in Boston last year, and I wasn’t afraid for a moment. Should I have been? If she were graduating this year instead of last, would I worry whilst attending the festivities, listening to speeches designed to inspire? I think I would, and I’m sorry for those who will have to live with increased angst over the coming months and years until it all fades again with the novocaine of time.

I want to be able to put things like this into perspective. It seems like it would help me get through them. But for all my searching over the last few hours, I cannot.

5 replies on “Finding Perspective.”

Dear Christine, the last thing I want to do right now is “find perspective.” Those feelings of anger, grief, and sorrow that you experienced on 9/11 – feelings that were shared by folk from around the world who were not there that day – those are feelings that so many share in the wake of the Boston bombings, whether or not we were there, or live in Boston, or have a relative or close friend there. Not because we are voyeurs, but because we are empathetic human beings.
Of course the human defense mechanism is to seek to “find perspective’ or “gain perspective”, in the sense not that we are looking for a deeper understanding of what happened and why, but because we want the hurt to go away, and we find that if we can distance ourselves, pull back and seek to observe “dispassionately,” we can find that relief. As you point out, time often helps that process – the old saying “time heals all wounds” is partially true for that reason.
And so we lose the fire in the belly that might move us to do something about gun violence, or injustice, or whatever it is that horrifies us. Something that gets us off the dime of not taking responsibility (e.g., the theologically lame “God has a reason”, assigning the blame for this action that is representive of humanity at its worst). Something that won’t put up with the unfeeling cave of denial the weather prognosticator in Colorado you reference has dug into. Something that looks more closely at all the acts of caring and compassion that were unleashed even before the smoke of the first bomb cleared, and helps us realize that evil and death cannot and will not have the final say.
If perspective means me getting back to “normal’ so I can sleep at night while a mother sobs over the meaningless death of her eight-year old, Lord save me from it!

I do want normality. I do want perspective. I want the power of the evil to have as little time with me as possible. Different strokes for different folks. I always love your point of view. Makes me think through my own!

A woman who had crossed the finish line just before the blasts was thanking God for making her put on a burst of speed at the end. Maybe evading death by a whisker makes us feel special, chosen, blessed. But the corollary is that the poor souls who were killed and maimed were not special, chosen, blessed. I guess it’s easy for me to sit here in the safety of my home and grouse about the God-thankers. For all I know, I’d make the same vapid remarks after surviving a catastrophe, if a CNN camera were in my face.

There is no perspective to find. We may eventually learn the motive for this latest outrage, but how can we hope to truly understand how anyone could want to kill and maim innocent people? To try to find “perspective” is to try to understand and even somehow ameliorate the horror. Nope. No way. This is evil. Full stop.


I know exactly what you mean… no judgement. Confusion sometimes, but just can’t figure out what would be what if it were me…

Dearest Cousin Chris,

You are so cute. You are so caring and inspiring and community minded in your thinking and your goals. You are a true humanist.

My thoughts? For me, there is no god. For me, there is life, nature and the universe. I believe that as just another species on this planet, in this system, we are just somewhat set apart because we have emotions and intellect. However, is this to our benefit? Does this foster or hinder morality, responsibility, love and all that could be catalysts for evolution?

I used to process things by looking at the “relativity” of the circumstance or confrontation… in that how does it relate to me? I used to listen to the news and then scratch my head and wonder why, but I stopped after 911.

Since then, my humble goals are limited and admitedly self serving. I try to get through my day with grace; to nurture my garden (inside and out); to be kind to my neighbors and good to my friends: and to be loving to my family. I don’t go in the direction of anything else.

Just sayin!
: )

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