Which is the only way to love, isn't it? —Mary Oliver
Lives were shattered. Limbs were torn. Hearts were broken. But no nations have been bombed. Nobody in a position of power told us the correct response was to go shop. Survivors will heal, but scars will remain. And everyone has questions. And too many think they have answers. Every answer is part of an agenda, often a subconscious one. It's a psychological version of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: The more knowledge we have about the workings of some aspects the Universe, the more it confounds us not to have knowledge about the workings of other aspects of the Universe.
Some seem almost comforted that the suspects were not born in the United States, that they came from a troubled part of the world, that their political beliefs were well out of the mainstream, and that they considered themselves adherents of a religion that some prefer to caricature and demonize rather than attempt to understand. But others were almost hoping that the perpetrators would be native born, have a different religion and different political beliefs, and again for the purpose of caricaturing and demonizing. Neither serves any positive purpose. Neither brings us any closer to understanding. Both take us farther from what we idealize as the concept of humanity.
Terrorists fit no pattern. They come from all places and all races and all religions. Whatever their own attempts at self-serving rationalizations, those who seek to isolate blame to some particular demographic need to widen their view. Terrorists are human. Blame the species. Each of us is capable of incomprehensible beauty and each of us is capable of unthinkable horror. We want to understand why and how these capabilities balance or fall out of balance in particular individuals, but we cannot. We never will. There are in the world things that surpass understanding. Terrorism is one of them.
There are in the world countless millions who adhere to the religion claimed as that of the suspected terrorists. The overwhelming majority of that religion's adherents never resorts to violence. There are in the world countless millions who are alienated and dispossessed, who have suffered political and economic dislocation, who have been wounded by great personal losses and traumas, and no matter the combination of such, the overwhelming majority never resorts to violence. Why them? Why then? We ask. It is so human to ask. It is so human to rebel against the impossibility of ultimate answers.
One cannot profile what causes individual human beings to snap. The wonder is that more don't snap. But those who do are very much in the minority. That is a profound statement about the wonder that is humanity. The strength and courage of the people of the Boston area is a statement about humanity. No matter how bad or painful this world sometimes can be, people survive. People continue to survive. Some thrive. Some muddle through. Some endure. Some are bloodied. Some are broken. And those who turn to violence are very much in the minority. They are anomalies. We will never know why they, of all people, become such anomalies. We will never know why they, of all people, embrace the worst of what is inside all of humanity rather than what is best, or even not best, just not the worst, inside of all humanity. We want to know. We will never know.
It is human to want to know. We demand answers. We have trouble accepting that some things have no answers. We have particular trouble accepting that things so unthinkable, that acts so malefic, that conscious intentions to cause so much horror, have no answers. But there are no answers. There are no answers. If there was a causal relationship between the events of a life and the perpetration of such horrors, then all who experience similar events would perpetrate like horrors. That is not how it happens.
Our minds demand answers, and there are none. To some, that is the greatest horror of all. We cannot know. We cannot anticipate. We cannot draw the larger lessons we so desperately seek, even as other larger lessons stand before us, if we can but recognize them. We cannot know. Knowledge itself is a limited facuty. We walk through this life without ultimate answers. That won't stop us from asking. It is so human to ask. It is so human not to accept the lack of answers. But we can comprehend that we cannot know. As difficult as it is to accept such comprehending, we are capable of such accepting.
There are things we will never understand. Our minds rebel, yet we must try to get our minds around it. For the sake of our common humanity, we must try. We cannot know all that we want to know. We cannot even know all that will so defy such a reflexive need. We sometimes cannot know what we are most desperate to know. But we can live with strength and grace and courage and beauty even without such knowing. At times such as these, that may be all we can know.