In the below paragraphs it’s my desire to make one thing clear, I’m personally trying to digest Boston. I’m by no means trying to establish a moral high ground, or morality at all. I’m trying to not speak in broad terms, also. I also realize the timing of this post and the possible perceived audacity. However, this post was written with the humblest of intentions despite the fact that I’m sure this will rub someone the wrong way. I apologize in advance, if possible, for that.
By no means is this meant to diminish those who deal with pain and suffering in varied ways or those who have hurt so much that they can’t take one more thing. I’m not pointing fingers and I’m by no means trying to shift focus away from Boston where no one should deny that real suffering is taking place. Real lives are forever changed there in horrific ways . People in Boston, like people in Syria, Iraq, and Afganistan are suffering in ways that are universal and their suffering should not be undermined.
As a storyteller, and a photographer who finds myself all over the world quite often, I desperately want to gain perspective where perspective is to be had. A softer heart towards suffering is my goal here. I think I’ve failed to see and empathize with suffering because I’ve failed to be touched by those who suffer. There are people in the world who, by all means, suffer unspeakable situations every day. Some of those people are in Boston right now.
If I can’t look at Boston and hurt with them, how can I personally establish a grounds for empathy and care for suffering around the world?
I hurt for Boston as well as I can. I want to understand their pain, suffering, and dismay as much as possible. As odd and masochistic as it sounds, I’m scared to turn away and allow my heart to harden and forget.
I’ve been wrestling with these thoughts since the news in Boston broke:
Am I numb to compassion because I’m ignorant of suffering? How do I suffer and hurt with those who I don’t have a direct connection to? Does suffering give us greater capacity to empathize with those who hurt?
The bottom line is that the acts of terror, and subsequent death, in Boston are all horrible. By all account’s it’s been a horrible week for America. Boston’s suffering cannot be minimized nor sufficiently equated with the suffering around the world. Any comparisons done of humanities suffering, in and of itself, should only conclude with equality. Suffering is equal opportunity.
I’ve watched people react to the news differently. Some people turn the other way and ignore it. Already moving on. I tweeted things on Monday that were superfluous and lacked the proper tact of such a weighty situation. I watched some react in anger. Some simply don’t know how to react. That’s understandable. I don’t really either. Most don’t.
But it seems like I’m struggling to let it really sink in.
I’ve heard people on the radio say, verbatim, ”Thank God it wasn’t close to home.” I’m uncomfortable with that thought because I don’t want my capacity for empathy to be based on distance. That’s little confort for those who are in Boston. It’s always close to someone’s home. But conversely I am glad that it wasn’t in my neighborhood and that my wife and child are both safe. Something many families in Boston cannot say.
I’ve heard people say, “It’s been a horrible week. Let’s be happy. Here’s how…” Immediately I’m tempted to bury myself in one of a million readily available distractions. It’s easy. Let others deal with it. I can let it not affect me if I want.
But there’s this. I don’t want to move on. Optional escape undermines the weight of suffering. I want to push into the suffering of those in Boston. I want to weep with them and let it hurt. I want to let the fact that three people died and three families are irreversibly changed sink in deeper and deeper. I know for a fact that I personally need to face suffering in order to deal with it better, empathize with it better, love those who are suffering better, and ultimately act against it around the world better.
The above scene in Syria is an astonishing, humbling, and fantastically touching example of what I believe empathy to be. No one would deny that these men know what suffering and death look like, and that’s why I believe them. Syria and Boston are by no means congruent situations, but suffering is suffering and hurt is real despite location and socioeconomic divides. These men (boys really) have hit the nail on the head for me and inspired me to write these words much sooner than I thought I’d be able to.
All in all, I’m encouraged to make the time to hurt with you, Boston. God Bless.