The Inexplicable

questions marksThe tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon affected us deeply and shook us to our core. Bostonians, as well as those around the country and the world, watched, responded, and tried to assimilate a heinous action and, later in the week, its resolution in Watertown.

The horror and its aftermath were unimaginable in the truest sense – it was hard to believe it had actually happened. Witnesses and reporters were left virtually speechless, struggling to find words to convey what had occurred, how people were reacting.

It was – and still is – overwhelming, inexplicable. Yet, we struggle to understand, to make sense of what happened. We are desperate to answer questions – perhaps most importantly, why?

Explanations for awful events are seldom obvious or easy to find. While a destructive hurricane is seen as an extreme act of nature, a destructive action by humans is an aberration of nature – human nature. Theories are offered: Insanity? Political extremism? But no context or frame creates an adequate rationale to explain or begin to justify such an event.

In searching for a philosophical explanation, some people suggest that “things happen for a reason.” This explanation doesn’t hold for me when what has happened is so totally un-reasonable. I don’t believe the Boston bombings were at all based in reason or that any of the people died or were hurt “for a reason.”

I don’t have an explanation for the inexplicable. The best I can offer is that sometimes things happen, and sometimes they are horrible things. I don’t believe they are set up by the Universe to bring a lesson to anyone, to create a hardship or challenge for them to surmount. However, the people involved – even those of us who are the witnesses – ultimately have choices about the consciousness with which we respond to any and all events in our lives.

As we struggle to move on, to assimilate what has happened, we can begin to make choices. We can stay locked in fear, terror, rage and frustration, or we can try to bring a different consciousness – one of positive determination, courage, and love – to our feelings as we go on in our lives. Those of us whose connection is less immediate to the pain and destruction of a situation can hold a loving energy for those who aren’t able to. While we might not be able to explain or provide a reason for the pain and suffering of others, we can begin by being supportive of each other’s healing process.

The inexplicable is intense, overwhelming, beyond words. When the event is a difficult one, we are left bereft. But a different kind of event, something at the other end of the spectrum, like the joyful birth of a baby or a wonderfully loving outcome to a situation, can also feel inexplicable. We are similarly left speechless, overwhelmed, intensely touched and moved – this time by joy, goodness, relief. It seems that we cry tears of disbelief in the presence of the miraculous as well as in the presence of awfulness.

And, sometimes, both of these qualities – the horrible and the miraculous – are present simultaneously. This happened at the Marathon finish line. As the horror unfolded, we also saw people miraculously responding to the wounded by coming to their aid, risking their own safety, running toward the danger.

I wouldn’t expect to turn to Mr. Rogers, the icon of children’s television programming, for insight at such a moment. But he’s been quoted as saying, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” At the Marathon, this is what we saw. Inexplicable goodness was present in the same moment as the inexplicably scary.

I can’t imagine an adequate answer to why awful things happen. At this impossibly hard end of the spectrum, there is no explanation. But I know that at the other end of the spectrum, when my heart is deeply moved by people helping each other, being loving, when inexplicably wonderful things happen, that is the inexplicable presence of the best of our Selves. It is Spirit, the Divine. Perhaps the inexplicable indicates the total presence or the total absence of the Divine.

Let’s keep our focus on the part of the spectrum where the Divine is present, where we can be helpful, loving, and kind to each other.

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