And really...isn't that what people usually do when others suffer a tragedy? Sure, we think about those who suffered, if we are compassionate souls we pity them, if we are human we worry about the potential for harm to ourselves, selfish creatures that we are.
And then we get on with whatever we've been doing.
The trivialities of our lives don't stop mattering to us because someone else has suffered unspeakable horror.
Yesterday three people were killed and some 130 were injured by bombs in Boston. But thirty people were killed and over 100 injured by bombs in Afghanistan and fifty were killed and over 200 injured by a car bombings in Iraq. And hundreds, probably thousands more died or were maimed in silly, pointless little domestic tragedies; car accidents, slips and falls, chokings, heart attacks.
Every single one was a horror and a tragedy to the people left behind. The parents without a child, the children bereft of parents, the couples parted by death, the grandparents never to know their grandchildren, the friends and lovers and acquaintances shattered by sudden loss. Every one of those lights that went out yesterday was a little universe to the dead, and part of the universe that they and those they knew and loved had created around them. And every one of those little universes was shattered into fragments, some to wobble on, some to drift away into darkness never to shine again.
And so it has always been, and so it will always be. Some of us will die. Some will live, and go on. And the contrast between those deaths and our lives invites all sorts of reflection, speculation, accusation, and deliberation.
The only difference between the "always has been" and today, it seems to me, is that we now have these instant outlets for all that speculation and accusation. And that many of those thoughts, as our thoughts always have been and always will be, are foolish and vain and contumacious and silly. Ed at Gin and Tacos puts it better than I can:
"The internet and 24-hour cable news environment overwhelms us with "grief porn" in response to events like Monday's bombing. It encourages us not only to express great sadness but to do so publicly. It's not enough to spectate; we have to be part of the chorus of prayers and tears. We've always been less than enlightened thinkers as a nation. Today, though, we have a window into our half-baked thought processes and speculative "journalism" encouraging us to join them in a leap to conclusions. We have every opportunity to say things and very little encouragement to think before doing it. The exhibition of bile and stupidity that we see online is evidence that we could all benefit from a quieter and more reflective response to the horrible things the world throws at us."Boston suffered a deadly day yesterday.
But not only deadly day. And the deadliness of Boston's day does not mean that the commonalities and trivialities and normal business of our own are worthless, or inconsequential, or that we somehow need to stop what we're doing and join the keening of those whose universe was lost.
Our lives go on while others' end. We are changed and yet the same, our existence no weighter or more trivial than they were the day before yesterday. And I don't know what that says about us, other than that human nature is and always has been the best and worst of the things we are and do.
We are our own angels.
And, alas, our own devils.