The Optimistic Perspective from a Cynic

April 15, 2013

in this i believe

Something horrific happened in Boston, to Boston, to people who congregated in that resilient city for the annual Boston Marathon. Two explosive devices went off near the finish line when many were getting close to accomplish what was one of the most impressive feats, running in and finishing a marathon. There were a lot of footages and photos, and in some sense, the event was live streamed via various social media. There was one photo that emerged and was shared and reshared right away. Even though folks helpfully added #NSFW as a warning, I still got a glimpse of it because Twitter automatically shows the full image in the live stream. At first I did not even realize what the large ares of redness on the ground meant. There was so much red. Bright red. I thought it was paint because it was so errily bright. Later it hit me, and I started crying.

My first reaction as I sat here staring at my computer screen obsessively hitting refresh, refresh, refresh, feeling utter disbelief and helplessness, was “What’s wrong with people? With humanity? With this world?” Thanks to Twitter (with whom I am secretly in love) I came across the calming perspective provided by Mr. Rogers (or rather, Grandma Rogers), “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

It is true. Hundreds of Bostonians soon started using this Google spreadsheet “I have a place to offer” to open up their homes to runners and their families who are stranded because of the tragedy and the ensuing chaos.

Still, one could easily dismiss Mr. Rogers for being too nice, too trusting, too optimistic. I needed more. And I found it in an unlikely place… Patton Oswalt. You know, the stand-up comedian who’s not known for having a sunny, “look on the bright side”, personna?

I really appreciated his reminding us that in many of the video footages you could see clearly that when the explosion happened, many instead of running away ran towards the explosion to help.

If you are feeling lost, sad, helpless, and especially if you are feeling angry, read what he said. I like the math he did.


Patton Oswalt Facebook Post on Boston Marathon Explosion


A post shared by Chris Roan (@roanzone) on

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

D. A. Wolf April 18, 2013 at 8:36 am

Numb from the senselessness of this act. So many acts. But more that fight against the darkness. Yes. Without question.

And my heart goes out to S, and so many others.
D. A. Wolf´s last blog post…Changing Things Up


absence of alternatives April 18, 2013 at 8:46 am

I still feel shaken about this. I don’t know why. You keep on asking WHY? but does it really matter? Is there ever a WHY that justified all this?

absence of alternatives´s last blog post…The Optimistic Perspective from a Cynic


S April 16, 2013 at 8:11 am

I’ll respond too quickly to have thought this through very well. Forgive me.

One of my kids was about 300 feet from the first blast. Another had been asked to pose for pictures by the flags minutes before. My little one was with me in the safety and squalor of home. (47 years of ignoring the marathon and pretty much all other athletic events has stood me in good stead.) We’re all okay.

I have PTSD and my little one is prone to anxiety. What I know from my own trauma is that the bad part, the part that scarred my psyche, was not the event, or the injuries, but the helplessness. What I teach the little one is to see the goodness, to see the helpers, and to see how we can offer help. So, yeah, we registered to offer a bed. We talked, too, about all the people who were there at the finish line to offer medical support even without a crisis and about all the people there helping and committed to keeping everyone safe.

Because my ex-husband has issues of his own, I need to be concerned with what he will think necessary to tell our child. He has scared her terribly before, “for her safety.” So I try to get there first–in general, and in specifics. I am an atheist, but we go to church. Why? For community, but also so that this child sees hundreds of people each week gathered to think about goodness, to think about how to be better people, to think about their responsibilities to a world beyond their immediate families. We talk about math, and how it applies to these terrible acts, or natural disasters. On Sunday, it was made quite real as a car running a red light nearly broadsided our car. Car accidents are a legitimate, persistent, threat–but we don’t let the fear of them cripple us. Mommy just avoids driving at night. WHICH IS TOTALLY REASONABLE. And when bad things happen, we offer help, by offering a bed, by sending blankets, by making dinner, by giving a ride.

The hurly burly of life is chaotic. It is beautiful. It has anger and pain and devastation. But the sun rises, hearts beat on, babies laugh and flowers bloom. Goodness is enduring and powerful and within our own abilities to manifest, each and every one.


Absence Alternatives April 16, 2013 at 9:39 am

There is no apology needed. Not at all. If anything, I want to apologize for not being able to adequately express how I am feeling right now after reading what you went through, are going through and still need to go through. I really just want to reach across this tiny piece of glass on my phone and give you a big hug. Hugs to your babies.


Absence Alternatives April 16, 2013 at 9:41 am

Also, thank you. These words are beautiful. Thank you.


Naptimewriting April 16, 2013 at 12:04 am

Here: Business Insider’s “13 Examples of People Being Awesome after the Attack on the Boston Marathon”

Also? Still can’t stop crying. But that’s neither here nor there.
Naptimewriting´s last blog post…Daddy say…


Absence Alternatives April 16, 2013 at 9:37 am

I cried again this morning in the car. Also when learning about the story of the two brothers that each lost a limb… (((hugs)))


Meg at the Members Lounge April 15, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Love you for posting this… xo. People bond when shit happens, that’s for sure!
Meg at the Members Lounge´s last blog post…Friday DIY. How to Fake People Out.


Absence Alternatives April 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Love you back. Thank you. I wasn’t able to do anything but sitting here wishing for… I don’t know what. I guess I needed to find something to help me believe. I am glad I did.


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