Three more murders yesterday in Baton Rouge. A man in Minnesota. One in Baton Rouge. Five in Dallas, where police, who could surely have attached pepper spray or a “flash-bang” to that robot, blew the shooter to pieces. How many in Nice; is it 84? I walked that lovely promenade last September. Now the lingering image is of the lone friend or family member sitting in the street beside a body just at dawn, keeping company with the dead. And we should not forget the recent killing of over one hundred men, women and children near restaurants in Bagdad as they broke their Ramadan fast with neighbors.
I heard the erudite and delightful Ilia Delio, O.S.F., speak at Boston College last Saturday, her topic “Evolution and the Primacy of Love.” Many of her ideas grow from the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, twentieth century paleontologist and priest, who believed the human race is in self-conscious evolution. The nature of the universe is undivided wholeness. The fifth force of the cosmos is love.
Today, however, I recall someone quoting a sign on a display of the development of man in Paris’s Museum of Natural History: “The evolution of hominids is largely complete. The evolution of human beings has barely begun.” What can I do as my heart drops again into that hollow place of helplessness. I don’t know how to pray any more.
Last week in response to events in Nice the author of the blog Sicut Locutus Est reran a posting from 2005 after the tsunami. Watching news coverage, she heard a reporter ask some survivors when a muzzein calls, “Are you going to prayer?” While some do go, one man who lost 24 members of his extended family shakes his head. Through a translator he says, “No, not now. Now I do not have it in me to pray.” The author looks for hope in the mourner’s key word, “Now.” But, she says, in times of terrible tragedy, especially those perpetrated by man on man, “we often overwhelm those great human questions—those vast empty spaces and terrifying silences—-with hope-filled murmuring about God’s love….” She finds she can not reassure even herself.
On the other hand, Delio reminded us of recent proof of “non-local action,” responsive action between atoms, molecules, the tiniest bits of cosmic matter, separated by huge distances. She quoted Henry Stapp, who says not just our actions, but even our thoughts do something. Perhaps it is enough today if I can turn my thoughts from disgust and sorrow at man’s misplaced anger and our seemingly ubiquitous insanity. I can send thoughts over great distances to join those men and women who embraced one another sobbing in Dallas, to the young woman in Minnesota who filmed her fiancé’s death next to her in their car. I can imagine myself huddled next to a grieving figure in the street in Nice, waiting for the light.