The world turns, teetering on its axis, yet righting itself as it spins on. Even as its path may waver, as its delicate balance threatens to give way, even as we fear its and our own undoing, it spins on, and so do we.
Such is life, as morning follows night, a night as dark as any, even in the City of Light, when unfathomable evil and hatred explodes in violence. Violence made even more depraved in its precise calibration, made even more unconscionable in its targeted execution. Eight strategically chosen locations, eight precisely coordinated attacks, three teams of eight perpetrators strapped to suicide bombs and wielding assault rifles, intent on taking life even as theirs is blown away.
Such is the devaluing of life, such are the depths of rage, fury, anger that can incite such brutality and wreck such devastation and sorrow.
And so we mourn with Paris. At first in stunned silence, as we watch in disbelief as the images unreel before us, real, yet unreal, and there are no words, no way to express the inexpressible, a visceral horror born of terror and despair. And then as the hours go by and then the days, there are too many words, torrents of them that threaten to overwhelm, rushing over us in a multiplicity of formats, on a multiplicity of platforms, across the blogosphere, on Twitter and FB, as the world tries to make sense of such senseless acts.
Reports abound about ISIS, about its odious agents, about its vast network, about its frightening reach. Troubling questions arise about the lapse in intelligence, about recruitment tactics, about the careful planning and execution of the attack. Fiery arguments erupt about open borders, about immigration, about military response, about global coordination. Heated debates flare up about underlying values and beliefs, obligations to ensure our citizenry’s safety and security, moral responsibilities as a beacon of democracy and freedom, our place in the world as both a bastion of right and might. And then the stories come, the wrenching stories of those who survived the attacks, of those who watched as friends and loved ones were gunned down with impunity, of those who struggle to deal with those innocently murdered and the very random serendipity of their own survival.
The cacophony can confound and confuse, further magnifying the sinister threat of the enemy and heightening our own vulnerability, and yet, the words, even as they arouse alarm, serve a deeply human purpose, allowing us to give expression to our deepest fears, to confront those frightening possibilities, to connect though our shared pain. For even as such heinous acts defy our essential humanity, so too do they evoke the very real human need for each other and the solace that comes from those essential connections.
*The whole world is a narrow bridge, taught the Chassidic Reb Nahman of Breslow, “and the most important thing is not to be afraid.”
And as our world spins, and the bridge precariously narrows, no better way to cross it than together, no better way than without fear.