Bombs aren't supposed to explode in the middle of Boston. And yet, I remember the first several years after the Oklahoma City bombing that I held my breath and watched, wondering if there would be another attack somewhere--April 19 was a date that stood out. And then enough time passed, and enough April 19s passed without domestic terrorism that the date no longer inspired caution. Oklahoma City shouldn't have happened. Waco shouldn't have.
We try to make sense of the senseless. We try to understand why evil exists. No explanation can really explain it.
Heaviness--we feel it, and we worry about our own. Was anyone we know involved? And yet, seriously? We're so lucky, so blessed. Most of us go about our lives without fear...literally billions of people in this world can't and don't go about their lives without very real fear.
We sit over here in the US, oblivious to the crippling poverty that so many live in, the threat of war, of attack, that they live in. We ignore honor killings of pregnant women because it's inconvenient. We pay no attention to famines leaving children and men and women starving and dying. We turn away from our own homeless and poor and in need.
If we opened ourselves up, really felt, and could grasp large numbers and relate, I think the heaviness would blanket us, crush us. So it's protective that we can't and don't open ourselves too far, too much.
We wrap ourselves up, insulate ourselves, because we have come to expect that pain, loss, grief, sadness, all of these are things we should not have to experience, should not have to feel. We can accept a momentary blip, but we want to throw it off, pretend it's no big deal and continue on, either numb to life, or elated--and yet, elation is often chemically induced.
We, in America, it seems, expect life to be all ups, at least the middle and upper classes, do. It comes as a shock to the system to realize that Buddha and his four truths had it right, at least with the first truth.
1. Suffering exists
2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires
3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path
Bad things happen, losses (both small and large) are inevitable, and the longer we live, the more loss we will experience.
Adaptive coping helps us get through these losses, the daily struggles. It cannot erase the reality, though, and I think at some point, adaptively coping means learning to live with the pain of loss, to accept that knot in one's throat and stomach, the twist in one's heart and still get up in the morning and walk out into the world each day. It means learning to see the beauty in the moment, to accept that the moment really is fleeting.
This isn't new stuff. It's as old as humankind. We've been trying to make sense of loss and death since the dawn of time, and we've been writing about it since we acquired written language.
|GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,|
|Old Time is still a-flying:|
|And this same flower that smiles to-day|
| To-morrow will be dying.|
We reconcile, even when we don't want to.
...And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.