Wherever the investigation into what happened yesterday in Boston leads, my first reactions were likely in sync with those of most Americans hearing the news. My niece was in running in the Boston Marathon this year and I immediately wanted to reach out and find out if she and her family were safe. They were. She had finished long before, in the top tier of runners.
Then I watched and listened as those moments of terror were reviewed again and again. I prayed. I posted. I tweeted.
Now, a day later, I am still praying for those who have lost life or limb. I also pray for those investigating this sordid act of anarchism. And along with the rest us, I want to know two things—who and why.
I also have this recurring thought about how human nature’s default condition is lethargy and indifference, until brutally awakened. Then, it’s only a matter of time before “normal” (whatever that is) returns, accompanied by the onset of drowsiness.
I hope it’s not too soon to say this. I do not mean to take any attention away from those who need our prayers and encouragement, but Thomas Jefferson and others long ago reminded us that, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” The Apostle Peter wrote to first century Christians about being vigilant because of the perpetual and destructive activity of the devil himself. In the Greek language, the word vigilance carries the idea of “watchfulness” or “keeping awake.”
I think something C.S. Lewis said at Oxford University in the autumn of 1939, shortly after the onset of the Second World War, speaks directly on point and to our times. He shared a talk called, Learning in Wartime:
I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The [terrorism] creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If [people] had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with "normal life." Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies.