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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Requiem for Erewhon

Some days it's hard to be human.

Last night I mentioned my friend Rick's serious illness; Sylvia and I missed a tribute to him because of an important condo meeting. At that meeting we learned that one of our neighbours died the night before, a sweet little old woman who baked us cookies. I'd wondered why there were ambulances and a fire truck with lights flashing outside our door that night, but my mind simply wouldn't make the obvious connection; I thought they must have been caught up in some kind of drill.

By now everyone's heard of the terrorist attack in Boston, and the bombings that killed dozens in three cities in Iraq. And now we learn that Iran has suffered an 7.8 magnitude earthquake, with hundreds feared dead.

I usually resist commenting on events like these because I feel like I'm just piling on platitudes. But I will offer one thought that always gets me through times of sadness like this: good people all over the world are working hard to make things better.

Thousands of people dedicate their lives to ending heart disease and cancer. This activity goes on every minute of every day, invisible to most of us unless and until we or a loved one get sick.

Thousands of others risk their lives to mediate disputes among the warring tribes of Earth. Still more devote their days and nights to creating desperately needed infrastructure in developing countries. And whenever a crisis strikes, human beings instinctively rush toward the epicentre of disaster to help in any way they can. That's who we are.

Some of us are lost or sick or angry enough to lash out with senseless violence. Some aspects of our technology make it too easy to hurt people, and the temptations of power in combination with that technology have put millions in harm's way. Governments, individuals and organizations are all capable of great evil.

On day like this it's all too easy to surrender to despair or cynicism. But whenever I think of the everyday heroes who give of themselves so others may live, I'm heartened once again. Every day we lose people to tragedy, and those losses wound us forever. But we move forward anyway, struggling to build that better world that always seems just beyond our reach.

One day we'll get there. 

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