Monday, April 15, 2013

Confession


I realize that I am truly a self-centered person. I hesitated to write this or publish it today, but I decided that it perhaps needs to be said. The Boston Marathon was today and someone, no one knows who, planted bombs near the finish line in a spectator area. Two of them went off around 3pm and according to the news so far 3 people are dead over 90 more injured, many severely. I was reading the news stories that talked about amputations. No one has claimed responsibility; why this happened is a mystery.

I first learned about it when my boss mentioned it to me. Then I looked it up and saw it on the news. But I will confess: I was still thinking more about myself, what I needed to do that afternoon, what I needed to take care of before going home, about all the stuff happening in my life. I called my sister on the way home from work but I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that she lived in Boston. I was planning to tell her about some different things going on in my life. Fortunately her phone was busy. I called my Mom next and left a message. When she called me back she told me she had been talking to my sister and it dawned on me, all of a sudden, that I was being a thoughtless idiot. We talked about the horrific event. When I got home I texted my sister and emailed my friends in Boston, who are thankfully all okay. My sister called me and we talked about the explosions and the fact that two of her colleagues are still not accounted for. I said a prayer for her colleagues and their families and also for the victims and their loved ones. And I thought about the fact that in America bombs and mass shootings are becoming more common, just as they are in the rest of the world. It’s not so safe here as it used to be.

I do feel bad, truly. I feel confused, and helpless, and angry, and frightened, and sad. In my mind running is supposed to be a safe and happy thing. As a runner myself I would love to run Boston someday, although I will never be fast enough to qualify and would have to run for a charity. Running is about testing yourself, about a community of dedicated people who support each other. It is about good physical and mental health. It is about raising money for charities. It isn’t political. It isn’t about hurting anyone. Why would someone attack a race? Why would someone attack people who were there to cheer on other people achieving a dream? Don’t we need more people achieving dreams and more people cheering for them?

Despite feeling bad I’m still focused on all my own nonsense – work and wanting to lose weight and having projects to work on and hopes and plans for the future. I am still paying more attention to those things than to the tragedy in Boston. I don’t think I used to be this way, but maybe I always was and now I just realize it. I don't think it's wrong to have hopes and plans, or to have things in your life that you focus on. I'm just noticing how much those things, my own personal desires, wishes and concerns, crowd out everything and everyone else. I’m re-reading the book “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. It’s subtitle is “non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality” and it’s a book I read many years ago but was thinking about recently again. One of his themes in the book is that self-absorption is our “original sin.” It’s the sin that leads into all the others because on a fundamental level it says “I care about me, first and foremost. I care about my safety, comfort, pleasure and well-being. And I will do anything to secure these things. Don’t get in my way.”

I do think self-absorption is a sin. You can see how this attitude of self-absorption easily and rapidly becomes greed, hate, envy, apathy, lust, and pride in our actions. It’s a sin I think we all commit, one that we are born to commit. We have to be taught to care about others. We have the biology for altruism, but it doesn’t come naturally. Empathy, compassion, self-sacrifice and kindness have to be demonstrated, experienced and learned. Then they have to be practiced regularly. I’m not sure they ever come entirely naturally. I don’t know how to cure myself of self-absorption. Christianity says I can’t, that only G-D can heal my heart. I tend to believe this, since I’ve tried and failed many times at making myself be a less self-centered person.

So tonight I’m praying for myself, too, and for all of us. Because whoever planted those bombs, for whatever insane reason, was absorbed in themselves. What they wanted to see happen or a wrong they felt had been done to them, the reason doesn't matter. What matters is that in their self-absorption they killed 3 people and severely wounded 90 others. In their self-absorption they ignored the fact that their victims would be other people, people who would not deserve to be hurt, people who have families and dreams and rights. So I'm praying that my heart would be healed of this sin of self-absorption. That collectively, we would all be healed of our self-absorption. I'm praying that we can live in a safe and beautiful place once more where people can run with joy, in freedom from fear.