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Lessons: Boston and the Human Spirit

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The following blog is an amalgam of several emails sent to friends in response to the horrors in Boston this week. The reason I'm posting? Because many of us, in response to this week, have focused on what sad people we've become, casting aspersions and doubt about the future of humanity. While the events of this week are no doubt horrifying, there is reason to rejoice in humanity's endurance:

I am absolutely relieved to hear you are okay, and that so far our new friends at Harvard are safe. I spent yesterday lecturing at Dartmouth College and Tuck School of Business, where notwithstanding Dartmouth's proximity to Boston, there seemed initially to be very little knowledge regarding what had passed.

Myself, I learned just prior to walking into my large lecture, and finally, even after having lived through the '93 bombings of the World Trade Center and of course 9/11 -- found myself not knowing what to say.

Strange for me, I know.

There's little solace I suppose I can truly offer -- except that I am thinking of you, grateful for you, and understand just a little bit of what you might be feeling.

This morning, flying out of Manchester, I sat next to several individuals who competed in, and had just finished, the Boston Marathon. The hell on their faces was not the anguish of physical triumph, but that of those who had seen absolute evil -- who perhaps even realized how close they were to being somehow subsumed by the workings of the devil.

One finisher asked me whether I was in New York on 9/11. I was, I told him. I'd just finished my morning run, on an equally glorious day, when I looked up and was fairly certain that the plane I saw crash into a tower was a hallucination.

He asked whether I would run again, had I been running Boston yesterday. I would, I told him, because endurance running is about the resilience and capacity of the human spirit -- it's about discipline and love, perseverance and triumph, about pushing ourselves joyfully beyond our presupposed fragility and weakness to inspiring heights, becoming the best we can be... To let a criminal -- or worse, a terrorist -- take that from me, would be to concede the power and authority his or her criminal actions sought.

Shell-shocked still, he said he would run again.

Notwithstanding whatever physical and emotional pain they might have endured, one thing was evident -- the capacity of our humanity. That a single devastating act of violence does not determine who we are, but proves what we might inevitably become, the depths of our capacity to love truly, selflessly, to press on with our ever evolving selves.

Some have said this week that we are forever changed -- that Boston will never be the same again. Others have countered that saying, we will recover, that we are not changed by this singular set of tragedies. We will move on.

I'm beginning to think that's the point though. That in fact we are forever changed and changing, and not supposed to simply move on -- albeit not in the ways some would suggest or think. Every act of bravery, love, heroism -- it shows us what we can truly be as a people, it motivates more of us towards love and selflessness, not hate -- and isn't that the point of the quiet, but certain march of human progress and evolution? That we continue to grow into more loving, giving and joyful beings?

I have to believe this violence is not, actually, characteristic of the world, but rather a few bad people, who show the rest of the world the compassion, love and optimism the rest of humanity is capable of; who through their horrific acts and violence, help the rest of us to evolve to the fulness of our loving humanity.

Does that justify or bless the terror? No, but I am still... still so inspired by the heroism, bravery and love that is so overwhelmingly evident when these tragedies occur. I hope each of us will see this is part of an evolution from our more universally depraved state, and while comforting our wounds and facing our fears, will at the same time rejoice in the overwhelming evidence of our goodness.

I am a runner. I'm not likely to ever qualify for Boston, but as always, I will do what I can do... and when I run, will carry Boston in my heart.

And whether I am running or not, you will be forever in my thoughts and prayers. I pray for your safety, friend, and look forward to a joyful conclusion to this dreadful chapter.