“No energy in the universe can be either lost or destroyed.” The Law of Conversation of Energy
“If you believe that there is even a slight possibility that this could happen in your town, then you need to do everything you can to try to change that. Because it’s always someone else’s town until you wake up one day and it isn’t.” -Father of a Sandy Hook Massacre victim
I spent some time today thinking about explosions. I was never a very good science student, so most of what I know comes from watching Bruce Willis films with my dad back in the Days of Yore. One thing, though, that I understand about explosions is that they seem to happen very quickly, and they seem to be very uncontrollable. And they tend to lead to other destruction—fires, for example. Shrapnel. Or, put another way, trauma. Terror. There’s a children’s story where the protagonist cuts a pillow and lets all the feathers fly into a field. Scooping all of the terror and fear away from all the victims of the Boston Marathon explosions would be the same as picking up all those feathers and then repairing the pillow such that you could believe that it had never been cut.
I remember reading the law of conservation of energy in high school. It was one of those things that, when you stop to think about it, feels like God is maybe lifting the veil a little bit and letting you glimpse the design of the universe. For a moment, I felt like I was no longer looking through a glass darkly—instead I was understanding one minute piece of the puzzle. It was fleeting, but it has also become an anchor of my faith, and a source of deep serenity in my soul.
The law states that there is no energy in the universe that can be lost or destroyed. Imagine, if you will, a spider web covered with drops of dew. The web trembles from a breeze. Spider silk is one of the strongest fibers known to man, and yet a slight wind makes it tremble. That wind—that breath of air—that is my daughter’s laughter from last week when her Dad made a funny face. Imagine a snow covered tree in a still and silent forest, and suddenly the snow slides down, as if it is being pulled by a string. That shift in the atmosphere– that is my brother, playing on his timpani to some Shostakovich overture that I have never heard, 600 miles away.
Every night, my grandmother sits down on the edge of her bed and sighs—just as she has done every night for the last 90 years. Imagine how much time and space can be filled with 90 year’s worth of sighs. Imagine all the butterflies that have been forced to change course due to the sheer weight of my grandmother’s sighs.
People who lose limbs still feel their extremities moving years after they are gone— they describe it as a tingling as if they are moving their toes or fingers, but of course they are not. If you can imagine that—imagine reaching to pick up your coffee cup with a hand that does not exist, but the energy is still there, making your every nerve tingle, the synapses in your brain lighting up with electricity trying to make sense of it—if you can imagine that pain of missing a limb, just imagine losing a child.
Even if the parents in Newtown have never heard of the Law of Conservation of Energy, they know what it is. They are living it right now. They wake up at night, their arms aching, and not understanding the ache they sit up in bed and then realize that their muscles are remembering the weight of their children. They sit quietly at the breakfast table and then look up, so sure that they can hear the echo of their child’s last exuberant laugh echoing through the hallways of their house– so sure of it that their ear drums are vibrating. They might not know how to explain it—and maybe they don’t want to talk about it because people will think they aren’t coping very well—and that’s too bad. Because I think that any of us who have loved and lost could tell them that we understand—they aren’t being haunted. Their children are not gone. The energy from every laugh, every smile, every bounding leap and every whispered prayer, it’s still out there in the universe—reverberating. Bouncing back. Over the years it might fade. It might get harder to catch, to recognize, to feel. But it’s still there, always. It cannot be lost. There is no force in the universe that can destroy it. And that is sacred.
Of course—it goes the other way too. I think about Adam Lanza, or the people behind the Boston Marathon explosions, and I think about the energy that they contributed to our collective story. I think about all the hours they spent planning their attacks, and how every action they took during that time was an action built on hate. On selfishness. On cowardice. On evil. And unfortunately… that energy is out there as well. And now that it is out there, it also cannot be destroyed. It cannot be lost. Adam Lanza was firing his gun for a matter of minutes—but his evil energy has permeated our culture and will live with us for years. People these days always reference 9/11 when they talk about tragedy—and I’m no different. I was 17 years old when the towers fell. I watched on TV from my high school choir room when the second plane hit, and I remember the whole world realizing—in one instant, together—that it wasn’t an accident. That something was happening. And I can still feel that awful deadweight in my stomach.
I am a Christian. I am a mother, and I willingly brought children into this world. I am a teacher, and every day—every single day—I see miracles happen with my children, with my students, with my colleagues, with the families that I serve. I believe in the goodness of people, even though there is so much evidence in my personal history and throughout the world to demonstrate otherwise. I believe it because I don’t know how not to believe it—just like I wouldn’t know how to stop loving pancakes. It might not be hard science—but there it is.
The explosions that I am talking about are designed to hurt people. Their creators focus all their energy into destruction. I wondered today if there was an equal but opposite force—a goodness bomb. A love explosion. If there was some way that someone like me could create a force of energy so strong that 187 people could have a piece of their heart or soul healed, that 3 lives would be saved, and that all the people who were there to witness it would be forever changed—all in a matter of minutes.
And then I wondered, very cynically, why Einstein couldn’t have spent his time pondering THAT, rather than paving the way to make a nuclear bomb. If a dude gets all pissy and decides he wants to hurt a bunch of people, the answer is literally at his/her fingertips: buy a rice cooker. Build a bomb. Dust off hands. Walk away.
Not so for us good guys. I spent all day trying to think of one single good thing that I could do—one explosion that I could set off—that would change people for good the way that the explosions hurt people. And I couldn’t come up with anything.
Which brought me to my next science fact: Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The possibility exists, not necessarily to reverse every action—but to stop every action.
And then it hit me.
My friends, our only choice, our only option, is to go guerilla warfare.
We have to start thinking like the enemy.
How much time did you spend today thinking about how much GOOD you could do? How much time did you spend thinking about healing people, or loving strangers? I can tell you this: probably not as much time as Adam Lanza spent hating us. Probably not as much time as the Boston bombers did planning their attack. Did any of us research a way to heal people that we’ve never met? Did any of us think about events coming up in our cities where lots of people would be present, and think of ways that we could leave these strangers feeling healed, happy, or peaceful? Have any of us dedicated time to finding ways to get our message of goodness to as many people as have ears and eyes, the way that Westboro Baptist Church does for their message of hate?
The enemy is very focused. Their attention does not waver. The enemy does not allow themselves to be distracted, and does not consider any price too high to pay to do what they set out to do. In a post that went viral yesterday, Patton Oswalt (a comedian) said that “the good outnumber you (the evil). And we always will.” And I agree- I absolutely agree. Just imagine what we could do if we had a fraction of the focus, the desire, the drive what these guys do.
I feel like the basic attitude in this country amongst the good people is that we are all just doing what we can, just doing our best, just keeping our heads down. I am here to tell you that it isn’t enough. I am here to tell you that if we pushed back with the same energy that Adam Lanza put into planning his massacre, the scales would balance, and the next Adam Lanza might not ever exist. How could he? How could someone have so much hate inside them if they are surrounded by love—love that is not fuzzy or un-definable? Love that is focused, measureable, and above all– active.
I don’t know how to say what I want to say here. I guess, what I want to say is that this system—you know, the one where we all say we are good people and that we are all doing our best, but none of us are really loving at our full capacity—is not working. In fact, it may be the problem. It’s time to try something new. We have to let it love and goodwill consume us the way that hatred and illness consumes them.
Step 1: Assess your talents, your strengths, and your ability to love.
Step 2: Assess your surroundings. What is available to you? Where could you go/Who could you engage with?
Step 3: What does your love look like/How can it be measured? What action can you take?
Example: buy three loaves of bread, sandwich meat, and sandwich cheese. Maybe some bottles of milk or water. Set up a table downtown and start handing out food, no questions asked. Pray for everyone you see.
Example: Volunteer at your local school. Do anything, even if it seems stupid. Make copies. Make coffee. File papers. Coach softball. Build a website.
Example: Give till it hurts. This could mean money. This could mean time. This could mean talents or other resources. Give and give and give, because the opposite is what the enemy does… Take and take and take.
Example: Go to a place where people work really hard in the heat. Hand out water.
Example: go to a thrift store and buy shoes. Go to poor schools and drop them off.
Don’t ask questions. Don’t discriminate. Don’t set conditions. Don’t worry about who is scamming the government or who could be working harder or who deserves what. When you love someone you don’t worry about things like that. The haters don’t ask any questions.
The haters don’t discriminate. They have equal opportunity hatred, and it is one-size-fits-all. They are not worried about if their bombs only kill conservatives, or liberals, or women, or gay people, or straight people, or black people, or whatever. It does not concern them who their shrapnel embeds upon. We should fight back with equal opportunity love, and we shouldn’t worry about some of it rubbing off on people we might not really like all that much.
And also this:
Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Because they aren’t. And my children, and your children, are counting on us.