Contact Hypothesis, a concept I've discussed several times on this blog, describes that idea that your mind only understands, only computes, what the brain already knows.
"A year ago," CNN's John King explains from his own shared hometown neighborhood of Dorchester in Boston, "eight-year-old Martin Richard held a sign with five words: No more hurting people. Peace." An all too ironic premonition of the "senseless acts of violence," as King called it, that would end his life.
Indeed they are emotional events. The finish line, for those who make it, is where families and friends scream your name loudly--some even cry. You made it. They're proud. They either sympathize from their own experience, or marvel at something they don't imagine they could have done. Months of training, weeks' worth of Advil, heartache, schedule changes, setbacks, and mostly dedication culminate in the last 0.2 miles. Boston, New York, London, Chicago, major running events line the streets, the colloquially known "finishing chute," with signs, photographers, race officials, bands, and fans. Running is about separating. It's a debrief, a relaxation, a zone. It's what makes marathon training make sense to a runner; runners who also happen to be mothers, brothers, cancer survivors, war veterans, people with a cause--a reason to run, a meaningful part of their life.
Also senseless, is the direction some people chose to run when the bombs went off. Boston EMS paramedics and EMTs, Boston Police Officers, Boston Fire Fighters, and volunteer physicians, nurses, and others chose a road less traveled. We're engrained as emergency responders in the post-9/11 world about mass casualty incidents, weapons of mass destruction, and incidents perhaps as textbook as yesterday's tragedy. Secondary devices, the typical caution, are common: targeting responders, wreaking more havoc. They knew exactly what they were doing: but they went anyway. I've enjoyed my experiences as an EMT. It's taught me much about life, about humanity, but I've even said myself that I'm glad so many times to be in EMS, not police or fire. The idea of running into a gun fight, or a burning building, is to me--or at least was on a mental level--senseless.
Sense is something we try to make of things that have little explanation. It's human nature to answer "how" and "why" about an event. It's much more difficult to apply our own experience to ensure something makes sense.
What makes sense to me about the tragedy at Boston yesterday are the good people. The ones who dedicated their lives, decades of their life, to become a trauma surgeon or emergency room doctor. The ones with "BOSTON EMS" on their back who turned around, grabbed their equipment, and ran towards danger, but more importantly towards people they had never met begging for help. The same people who moments before were cheering for people they had never met who were accomplishing something they worked so hard to do; they took off their belt and made it a tourniquet.
And so we'll run again. The only senseless parts of this tragedy were not the deaths of innocent people. In fact, the most astonishing and remarkable senseless aspects were the inspiring actions of people who acted in ways they may have never previously understood. These are the senseless parts of our life, parts of our humanity, that only have the unfortunate privilege of being exposed when something equally senseless tests our resolve to be good people.