The continuing pursuit of happiness got a lot tougher last week. Vows to get up every day with intention, to care for ourselves and our families Ė both physically and mentally - and to extend random acts of kindness toward friends and strangers alike were overwhelmed by heavy doses of shock, anger, sorrow and hopelessness.
The Boston Marathon bombings brought the nation to its knees. Four cherished lives were taken and countless other innocent spectators maimed and injured by a violent act of terror, for what purpose no one yet knows. From our televisions or computer screens, we watched as Krystie Campbellís mother pled for common sense amidst a tearful remembrance of ďthe best daughter a mother could ask for.Ē President Obama, at a memorial for the victims at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross Church, portrayed our pain as he choked ever so slightly in describing the Richard familyís unbelievable sacrifice: the loss of 8-year-old Martin and the serious injuries sustained by his sister and mother. We furrowed our brow at the sweet photo of graduate student Lingzi Lu of China and were caught off guard by a fourth murder of MIT campus police officer Sean Collier, which ultimately lead to the capture of the terrorists.
I found myself home for the week recovering from an illness, and most of the news continued in this dismal vein. Concern for mankind itself was presented on Tuesday when renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking said we humans were on course to destroy the planet by 3013. To ensure the human raceís long-term survival, he said, we will need to find another habitable place in outer space. While astronomers two days later announced their discovery of two of the most Earth-like planets found thus far, the question is, will we be able to make peace with each other before we need to be there?
On Wednesday, the strained faces of shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords and the mother of Dylan Hockley, who was one of 20 children killed in the Newtown, Conn. massacre, appeared on my television screen. They shamed Congress for failing to pass even the slightest gun control measure: background checks on gun purchases. What a slap in the face to the 92 percent of Americans who have indicated they want this! And, as if there could be more, a devastating explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas that killed eleven brave emergency responders, injured 200 more and decimated an entire town.
By Friday, with the police closing in on the bombers, instead of concentrating on healing, I reached in for the large chocolate bar and bag of chips that I hide from myself in the back of the pantry and pulled out a can of Coke and tub of dip from the fridge. Before attempting to junk food my depression away, I considered that 5.4 percent of the nationís working age people collecting federal disability checks were no doubt doing the same thing in their own homes.
It was a week of horror that followed the previous weekís unexpectedly poor jobs report, riots in the falling economies of Cyprus and news of the bankrupt California city of Stockton. How will we ever keep up with escalating pension payouts and pay off our debts? Do we in the U.S. really just keep printing money? Even a first grader knows that wonít solve anything.
Boy is it difficult to be happy and hopeful when itís so violent, increasingly polluted and economically challenging out there, isnít it? Iím beginning to wonder whether any cities and mass gatherings are safe anymore from shooters and bombers. Iím also worried about having clean food and water and whether poor and ailing senior citizens will get their social security checks. But Iím most worried for people who are sitting at home unable or unwilling to put one foot in front of the other.
The individual heroes and the surveillance cameras themselves that engaged the whole world throughout the five-day manhunt in Boston and Watertown give me some semblance of hope. Yes, itís Big Brother at work ... but our technological expertise did the job, and our advanced telecommunication systems and skilled security forces involved us all in capturing the culprits. Miracle tales of the spectator who came face-to-face with one of the bombers and was able to identify him in a photo from his hospital bed help, too, as do the firemen, emergency responders and volunteers who did the right thing and jumped in to help save lives.
Personally, Iíll be adding to my list of morning inspirations memories of the beleaguered Watertown community who erupted in cheers and proud support for the police after the last bomber was found.
That and the fact that I believe we will, eventually, find those new frontiers.