Irrational evil and good in Boston

The worst and best of humanity was displayed in the time it took for a breath.

In an abrupt exhalation of shrapnel and twisted power came the blasts, the evil force physically repelling and maiming those at the 26-mile mark of the Boston Marathon. Blood and death and carnage tracked the violent gust as it pushed outward from its source.

But then, the exhale complete, came inhalation. With it came a rush of the good and beautiful of humanity. People surged in, toward the danger, carried by a fearless breath of indomitable kindness. The human spirit had expelled its bile in a sickening cough and sucked in goodness with the same agonized wheeze.

First responders filled the void, as did civilians and even exhausted runners. They tore at fencing and debris, trying to save victims overwhelmed by the sudden violence. They crouched over broken bodies, scooped up children, bound wounds and prayed.

Doctors and nurses expecting dehydrated runners transformed themselves in seconds to trauma teams, applying tourniquets to severed limbs. They gravitated toward the blasts, knowing but ignoring the peril.

We rightly ask what is wrong with a world that contains such hate, but we must not forget to ask the other question. What is the source of such good?

For in the space of a breath, the world saw both irrational evil and irrational kindness. We saw the work of humans who would cause the suffering of innocents for some perceived sleight and the heroism of humans who would ignore danger to help strangers.

The manifestations of good and evil have changed over history, but not their presence. We are both the fallen and saved, the demonic and angelic. As a species and as individuals, we are a turmoil of unfathomable depravity and unworldly purity.

As we pray for the victims and the proud people of Boston, we cannot avoid a sad cynicism at a world gone awry. Before the prayer ends, though, we should inhale the spirit of unreasonable good that surrounds us.

We may not understand the human capacity for either evil or good, but with stubborn confidence we can give thanks that the good will prevail.


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