The Bonds of our Common Creatureliness:
After the Boston Marathon Bombing
By Leslie A. Muray
Priest and Theologian
During the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, two pressure cooker bombs exploded at 2:49 pm EDT, killing 3 people and injuring an estimated 264 others.The bombs exploded about 13 seconds and 210 yards (190 m) apart, near the finish line on Boylston Street.
It did not occur to me to write anything like a Rapid Response to the Marathon Day Bombing and the events surrounding; living in the Boston area, I was too absorbed in them.
The Boston Marathon is a very special event to Bostonians and New Englanders in general. People who think of themselves as ordinary (I do not think anybody is ordinary) do extraordinary things, the special achievement of running a marathon and finishing against the odds, sometimes in bad weather. The marathon brings together people of all colors, religions, classes, and nationalities in a common celebration.
There is another dimension to the specialness of the Boston Marathon and that is the events it commemorates: Patriots’ Day commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American War of Independence. The Monday closest to April 19, the day of the battle, is a state holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Reenactments of the battles and the marathon are held.
As an immigrant to the United States, it has an added significance. These were the first battles in United States’ War of Independence, which, for all the ambiguities of American history, came to serve as an inspiration for other peoples’ struggles for independence against colonialism, including Latin American, Poland, my native Hungary, and much of the rest of the world (if they could do it, so can we, and establish “a new order of the world).
I have attended the reenactment on the Lexington Green twice. I keep telling myself to go to the one in Concord but invariably wind up relaxing and watching the marathon on TV. I followed this routine on April 15, 2013 except I decided to go for a late lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant in the town of Canton where I live. When I came back and turned on the TV, I was greeted with an image of smoke, confusion, on the heels of the two explosions. I was mesmerized. I also felt violated, as we all did.
During the days ahead, the explosions and the ensuing set of events started to hit “close to home.” I found out that immediately after the explosion two of my students were part of a crowd trapped inside the Copley “T” (as public transportation is called in Boston, in this instance the Green Line metro) Station (there was little mention of this publicly). Had it not been for a little niece having to go to the bathroom, two other students would have been very close to where the bombs went off. One of my friends lives three blocks from where Zhokar Tsarnaev hid in the boat. A colleague who lives very close to where the shootout occurred had blood stains and bullet casings on his lawn.
A few days after the lockdown and capture of the younger Tsarnaev, I had a class at our satellite campus in the town of Plymouth, about 40 miles to the southeast. Most of my students were Continuing Education students who are older and went back to college later in life; they had families and careers, mostly as nurses and police officers. Four of the women in the classes were nurses with 19 year old sons—the same age as Zhokar Tsarnaev!
As I walked in on their conversation, with great dismay they were all saying, “He’s so young!” And in those words and the sentiments behind them, , they had found “the bonds of our common humanity,” to allude to a phrase in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. They had not stopped feeling angry. They had not stopped feeling bewildered.
They had not stopped feeling violated. But they had taken the first and perhaps biggest step toward healing in finding the bonds of our common humanity or as I prefer to say to include non-humans, “the bonds of our common creatureliness.”
One aspect of Whiteheadian process thought is to maintain that our lives matter—they matter to ourselves, to the web of relationships of which we are parts and which are parts of us, to God, the God who “feels” all feelings, making them a part of the becoming of the Divine Self, in the process transforming and preserving them. Thus, God is in solidarity with all creatures, human and non-human. It is this solidarity that makes it possible for us to have what Whitehead calls world consciousness, world loyalty. It is this ultimate solidarity that empowers us to cross boundaries and to find common bonds of our creatureliness amidst the pain, amidst the frustration and bewilderment, amidst the anger, amidst the sense of being violated.
Also by Leslie Muray
A Multi-Polar World: The Political Implications of Relational Power
Gratitude After a Heart Attack
Does Anything Last Forever?
Hungarian, American, Christian, Buddhist