Friday, July 08, 2005


We are continually astonished by man's capacity to do harm. It jolts us, surprises us, awakens us. One would think that we would have been fully awakened by now, given all that has transpired in the last few years, the last hundred years, but no. We are jolted, again and again. The world is a mean and desperate place, but we have lives to live, do we not, so we go on, and on, until something, an act, an explosion, possibly four, reminds us of what we are capable of.

But we are capable of so much more! Yesterday, a group of people, probably no more than a handful, entered trains and buses in London, England and decided to show the world what they could do. They accomplished their mission. Their destruction was visible, life-altering, demented. Exactly what they wanted. And yet the madness of their actions was but a midwife to their true legacy -- the reactions of people, the humanity of people, the inherent dignity of people.

The only thing worthwhile that can emerge from a tragedy such as this is the realization and acceptance of our own naive humanity. We are forgetful people, vile people, and angelic people. We forget the inherent fragility of our world, because to remember, consistently, would leave us immobile. We are vile in what we can do to each other, willingly, in the name of ideology. We are angelic in our capacity to grieve and help.

An event like this always surprises us, as it should; the shock comes from the notion that we have acts like this capable inside of us. It seems like an aberration, even though we know, all too well, that it is the norm.

Hate and love are the flipsides of our nature, and just as we are blindsided by the carnage we can convey, we should also not neglect the daily acts of generosity and sympathy that continually remind us of our humanity. The driver who lets you switch lanes, the person who allows you to butt in line, the salesclerk who calls after you because you have left behind your purse on the counter -- these are the small, building-block examples of decency that culminate in a life well lived and a shared humanity. These tiny acts of kindness and grace are not showcased on the news with the fervor or intensity of a terrorist attack, no, but they should be noted, occasionally, and used as small reminders that we can do occasionally do monstrous things, violently and forcefully, but we can, more often, also do good things, repeatedly and effortlessly.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

beautiful sentiment at the end, and not in a sappy way. ...whenever i feel down i always worry that i am letting something slip away because things could be a hell of a lot worse. i live in new york city. i own my apartment. i have no trouble keeping up with my bills. i have no major debt. i am healthy. my family is healthy. you probably have seen all things worse in the world in the place to which you have traveled. but yet, in theory, these things should make us (me) happy and secure but they don't. it's more of a state of mind as opposed to a circumstance. internal. maybe?

how did you see david lachapelle on larry king? i am jealous!! :)