Tuesday, April 16, 2013

To Kiss the Ground

What gestures are fundamentally human? Is it to reach out and help someone? Is it to lash out in anger? Is it to sing? Or fall silent?
Perhaps the answer is the question itself. We are the species that wants to -- that must -- figure out "why?"
In the aftermath of something seemingly inexplicable like yesterday's bombing at the Boston Marathon we do want to know why, but why is not enough. We need something more than the answers to "why" in response to the horrors of violence that we will probably never fully comprehend even when we learn the identity of the perpetrator(s) and their twisted motivation.
Why is not enough. Why will not put back together what has been rent asunder in the lives of scores of individuals and families. Why won't even put back together what's been pulled apart in the minds of thousands of runners.
Having completed a half marathon just Sunday morning, the images from the finish line at Boston yesterday caused incredible cognitive dissonance for me. I cannot reconcile the pictures of mayhem from Boston with the joyous celebration that marks the finish of distance races. Those parties are not the only thing that runners run for, but they are the culmination of hours of mostly solitary running and they bring a simple, tired, joyous sense of completion to all that work. I think most of us who run are probably feeling a similar sense of dislocation as we contemplate the horror, suffering and loss from Boston and place those empty feelings alongside what the finish line should feel like.
I've seen lots of pictures over the years of marathon finishers kneeling down to kiss the ground just beyond the finish line. That's what the finish should feel like: kissing the ground in exhausted gratitude.
Rumi wrote, "let the beauty we love be what we do. There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground."
The poet pushes me beyond "why did this happen" to "how to respond." We may not ever be able to answer the first question satisfactorily, but there are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
Last evening we hosted an impromptu gathering on our front porch. A friend from our Cleveland days a decade ago is in town for her work and is staying with us for a couple of days. She invited a friend of hers who recently immigrated to Arlington from Nicaragua to join us. The friend is trying to learn English and really needs some local bilingual American friends, so we invited another Arlington friend, fluent in Spanish, to come on over.
The wine flowed. Our laughter rolled out across the neighborhood. We shared incredible stories and simple ones, too. We kissed the ground.
Barbara Brown Taylor says "in the eyes of the true God the porch is imperative."
I don't know why Boston ... or Newtown ... or Va. Tech ... or any of the other scenes of mass violence in America happen, but I do know what I will do in response. I'll keep gathering friends and loved ones on the porch. It's how we kneel and kiss the ground. It's what makes us truly human, and we'll do it over and over and over again in the face of all that would try to separate us from the common ground of our shared humanity.
How will you kneel and kiss the ground today?