On Saturday I went for a walk with Jonah, a handsome, blonde, two-year-old boy with a smile that he gives away to everyone he sees.
He carried a gray rubber shark as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
At times we held hands but not often because Jonah kept racing ahead with his arms outstretched, fingers pointing toward the next wonder he couldn’t wait to show me. “LOOK!” He shouted over and over again. “LOOK!”
There were flowers, and sparkling rocks, and floor grates that led to deep underground cages.
We turned railings into percussion instruments with sticks we found under bushes.
While banging our drums Jonah let fly with unselfconscious vocals that covered the spectrum between a yodel and a warrior’s roar.
I did everything that Jonah did. I squatted, sprinted, stretched and sang.
Every so often Jonah would catch my attention so that he could show me the little dark person that was walking just in front of him.
I showed him how to wave at his shadow in a way that would make his shadow wave back.
It was when Jonah considered this strange dark image as a part of himself that his lower lip began to quiver with fear. And fear threatened to ruin the whole adventure but Jonah didn’t let it.
Instead, he turned his attention to a leaf blowing toward us and we spent the next few minutes squealing with delight as we tried to catch it.
That’s what I was going to write about but then my editor sent me a message asking me to write about something else.
He has never made a request of me before and so I felt compelled to honor it even though every fiber of my being didn’t want to write about the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
Everyone was writing about it and talking about it and thinking about it and deciding about it.
Folks were banding together with premature conclusions and chest beating battle cries.
Prejudices were confirmed, alliances were formed and policies were in the making. All this before we had any idea who is responsible.
It could have been a lone white crazy or a cell of religious zealots or a corrupt government or a stupid kid.
All we knew for sure was that a lot of people were suffering from broken bodies and broken hearts on a day that had been set aside for pride and celebration.
In fact, for as long as man has been on this planet there have been stupid kids, crazy loners, religious zealots and corrupt governments. In their wakes they have left broken bodies and broken hearts.
But now folks are throwing their hands up in despair. “The world is a terrible place” they say as they look around for whom to blame.
“No one is safe anymore” they say, as if anyone was ever entirely safe.
There has been rape and murder and greed and war for as long as people have populated the earth. Natural and unnatural disasters have befallen us since the dawn of time.
What’s different between then and now is not that the world or the people in it have gotten worse but that the coverage has gotten better.
The internet and the 24-hour news streams have made it possible to hear about horror and atrocity every waking minute of the day.
In order to cover that much feed it’s necessary to let everyone talk incessantly without a moment’s reflection.
In order to capture the ratings news needs to be more sensational than the next channel or site.
In order to satisfy our corporate sponsors and political affiliations and personal agendas we need to spin the story and keep it spinning as long as we can.
The media is a useful tool that educates and exposes and includes but it is also a hungry beast that feeds on our fears and our compassion.
The result of watching without limits is a form of mass hysteria that stirs the pots of hatred and fear, rouses the most unenlightened impulses and exploits people who have already been through more than enough.
I wanted no part of it. I want no part of the Facebook posts wishing well being for those folks in Boston who are rattled to their cores.
I do wish them well, of course. I breathe in their suffering with every breath and I breathe out for them as much peace as my spirit can muster.
When I see that there is something tangible that I can do then I will do it.
I do the same for the families in Iraq or Iran who are crying out about the drones that have ripped their children from them and torn their bodies apart- bombs that my tax dollars have paid for though I have protested vehemently against them.
I wish those people no harm and I’m sure those people wish the runners in Boston no harm – even if our bomber turns out to be some fool claiming to represent them.
It is our turn to experience the shadow of humanity, the result of hatred and fear and war.
Responding to it with hatred and fear will not shrink the shadow in the world. It will strengthen it.
Let’s not try to squash the shadow entirely. That will never happen and we’ll exhaust ourselves in trying. Instead, let’s work together to shine a light bright enough to shrink it down to nothing.
Watching endless coverage of the horror in Boston will not help us to do that.
Our heightened state of anxiety is good for ratings but bad for our physical and emotional health.
It is also counter-productive in terms of combating terrorism.
For a terrorist to have power we need to think and feel and act like terrified people.
If we spend our resources on bomb proof trash cans now instead of on afterschool programs then the terrorists are the powerful ones and we are the cowards.
If we spend our energy banding together against each other instead of in support of each other this criminal has made victims of us all.
Let the law enforcement people do their jobs and bring whoever acted in this way to justice but let’s, the rest of us, get back to life a quickly as possible.
Don’t let fear threaten the whole adventure.
If you want to be able to see the beauty and wonder of this world again turn off your TV’s, put down your phones and computers and LOOK!
Jonah will tell you – it’s everywhere.
Nancy Murray is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and the Publishing Arts at University of Baltimore. She is a playwright who as enjoyed full productions of her work at Fells Point Corner Theater, Silver Spring Stage and the Montgomery County One Act Festival where it was selected as The Best of Festival. Most recently she has been enjoying participating in the Submit 10 Series as both a playwright and as a performer.