It was a spectacular day in Wellington today. The kind of day when you need to head outside, relax, bask in the sunshine and feel its warmth on your skin.
I ate my lunch outside today for the first time in months, daydreaming away while a little sparrow lingered by my side, quietly but eagerly awaiting any morsel or crumb I had to offer. Around me Civic Square buzzed with the chatter and laughter of fellow office workers perched on park benches or lolling around on the grass. The minutes seemed to pass slowly. It was bliss.
After work I took a stroll back through Civic Square and along the waterfront. Some people were beginning to gather in the square, a microphone was set up, someone was preparing to speak. I later learned that, with characteristic poor timing, I had departed the square a short time before a vigil was held to commemorate the victims of Friday’s attacks. Had I known I would have stayed.
Along the waterfront people were gathered outside bars, walking their dogs, running, listening to a busker sing a beautiful rendition of “Homeward Bound” by Simon and Garfunkel. They were all just ordinary people enjoying a pleasant evening in late spring.
As I walked I was struck by the thought of how suddenly and unexpectedly this leisure and happiness can be torn apart.
On Friday the attackers in Paris targeted ordinary people in public spaces; people eating in restaurants, watching football, enjoying a gig. In Lebanon, the day before, suicide bombers blew apart a bustling shopping district during rush hour.
The victims were all just going about their business, and the normality of their activities was brutally disrupted by horrific violence.
These maddening attacks just keep happening and it seems like we’re almost powerless to stop it from happening again. The attackers are driven a corrupt ideology that bears no relation to the religion they claim to represent. They loathe and target leisure, culture, community and joy.
It would be heartbreaking if these acts of terrorism led to a more insular, suspicious society. If they succeeded in spreading fear amongst us and destroying our basic enjoyment of all the little things that make life worth living.
I don’t think they will. I hope they won’t. In the wake of the recent violence, the global public mood is a heartening one of solidarity. Of defiance. Of unity.
Less heartening are the threats of retaliatory violence and the calls to close borders and tighten up immigration laws.
There are certainly no easy answers to the many complex and harrowing crises affecting the world. How do we stop all this madness? Can we stop it? I don’t know.
I don’t have answers. All I have is hope. Hope that compassion and understanding will prevail over hatred and intolerance. Hope that our global community will strive for peace rather than resort to senseless war time and time again.
I hope that we will connect rather than isolate. I hope that we will learn to value the differences in others, to be open to and curious about them rather than viewing them as alien or as something to be feared.
Perhaps it all sounds a little trite and simplistic. But right now that’s all I have. I hope that we will hold onto the current spirit of solidarity and unity.
Right now, it seems the only way forward out of all this darkness.