Living in the Wake of Tragedy

Yesterday, two neighborhood kids came riding by on bicycles. A few minutes later, they came back the other way. A short time after that, they passed by a third time. It wasn’t until the fourth pass that I noticed one of the kids was holding her phone out in front of her as she pedaled. At first, I thought she was speaking to someone but then it dawned on me — she’s playing Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is the new rage across the nation. It’s a phone app where the objective is to find and capture Pokemon that are out and about in the real world. Using your phone’s camera and GPS, this clever app has found a way to hide these mythical creatures everywhere. And the only way to find them is to go, well, anywhere, hold up your camera and see what’s around.

03242016-169Pokemon Go is a delightful summer distraction. It appears at just the right time when our kids have time, time to immerse themselves in mindless delight. But as we seem to do with everything else these days, it’s already become neccessary to teach them how to play Pokemon Go safely – not while walking in traffic (or riding their bicycle in the street!), and to not to go looking for Pokemon in dark alleys or other unsafe locations. But other than that,  it seems harmless enough.

Pokemon Go also comes at a time of great sadness and exhausting grief. On the heels of the bombing that killed 280 in Baghdad, the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five Dallas police officers, and now we add the 84 who died in Nice, France. Our hearts keep breaking as we struggle to keep up with bad news.

So no one should be surprised if distractions are valued this summer. I found us a few more.

An article appeared this week positing that we’re coming closer to realizing Einstein’s hypothesis that time travel ought to be possible. Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia, say they have simulated the behavior of a single photon traveling through a wormhole and reappearing at another point in time. Talk about distraction – time-travel would be even more fun than Pokemon!

noahs-arkAnd did you read about the opening of Noah’s Ark in Williamstown, KY? I’m not sure what it measures in cubits, but this new tourist attraction is over 500 feet long, more than 80 feet wide and over 50 feet high. And best of all, because the creationists who built it believe the world is only 6000 years old, there’ll be dinosaurs on the Ark!

But wait! There’s a second ark. This one was built in the Netherlands, measures over 400 feet long, more than 90 feet wide and over 75 feet high. It has 5 decks and purports to hold more than 5000 people. I’m not sure why they felt it important to tell us how many people it can hold unless … well, listen to this:

Apparently, a giant asteroid could hit earth next week. It measures approximately 1 km across and, if it strikes a populated area, it could wipe out entire cities and potentially devastate an entire continent.

But that was all made up. The article was placed online to see how many people would repost it without even reading that it was bogus. Scientists theorize that 59% of all links shared on social media are never actually clicked, meaning that most people who share news on social media aren’t actually reading it first.

Someone, after reading the above-mentioned article, posted: “I was hoping for an asteroid that would cause a worldwide flood so the guy in Kentucky with the ark would be a hero!” Which is maybe why the Netherlands ark posted its human capacity.

None of this can make the tragedies of the past week go away. And there will be more, I’m fairly certain and sorry to say. ISIL won’t be going away anytime soon. Nor will we be able to make sure every police officer in America is safe or is able to respond sensitively and appropriately to every scenario unfolding before them.

And just to show you that crazy people won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, I read an article about the fear that Pokemon Go will be used by terrorists to hunt down people.  Rick Wiles, who hosts a Christian podcast, “Trunews,” has asked, “What if this technology is transferred to Islamic jihadists and Islamic jihadists have an app that shows them where Christians are located geographically?”

I don’t know if this should make you smile or cry.

Looking at the week’s events, it’s difficult to know what to say, how to offer comfort. This is a really scary time in America and around the world. But here are some ideas that keep me going.

The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years. Their “miraculous redemption” required incredible dedication and bravery to change the status quo. And that’s what Moses and company did.

Further, we are a people that believes the day will come when nation will not lift up sword against nation, that the lion will lie down with the lamb, and that when asked if the Messianic Age has arrived, our answer is never “No,” but is always, “Not yet.”

We’ve cornered the market on hope.

Let me tell you story of guy named Franky Carrillo who, at age 16, was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Twenty years later, his case was overturned and he was released. Amidst it all, Franky never lost faith, not in others and not in himself. He speaks of how his father would restore other people’s discarded toasters and such, and make them shiny and like new. Franky always reminded himself of that, and of his hope that it would be able to happen for him, that he’d become and shiny and new again. And one day, it did.

And finally, Reb Nakhman of Bratzlav would tell his community, “Do not despair. A Jew may never despair.” All the world is very narrow bridge. How we get across it is puzzling and frightening. But we persist. Shaking perhaps. But continuing ever onward. No matter what, we hope and we act on our hope.

There’s a popular meme that has plastered the online world this week. It reads, “Things are not getting worse. They’re getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.” Penned by African-American writer/activist Adrienne Maree Brown, these words, in my opinion, epitomize the determination to not despair, to see every moment as an opportunity, every step forward, no matter how small, as an important and potentially beneficial one.


Dallas protesters confront one another with hugs!

This past Monday, two simultaneous protests took place in Dallas after the shooting of the police officers. One group proclaimed that “Black Lives Matter,” holding placards that asked, “Will I be next?” The other group, stationed just across the street from the first, was protesting violence against police, arguing that we all matter. Police appeared in order to keep an eye on the protesters, and to be ready in the event of violence. But it never happened. The two groups crossed the street, and confronted one another with handshakes and hugs, proclaiming, “No more walls.” Praying together for Dallas, with even a police officer joining in, they called for unity and peace and, together, chose to start making it happen right then and there.

Ellen meets Charmander

Ellen meets Charmander

May this be where all our differences lead. To understanding that we can care about what’s important to us without not caring about others. We can tend to what moves our hearts, and still honor what moves others’ hearts as well. We can even disagree about what needs to be done, all the while loving our opponents and looking for places we can agree and can work together to move our communities forward.

While walking thru New York City this week, I opened up my phone and took a photograph of the first Pokemon I encountered. And guess what, contrary to what many are saying about how people are fixated on, and only see, these non-real storybook characters … the one I found, it turns out, was standing right next to the woman I love. And that made a beautiful picture!

When we look at the world — through whatever lens we care to bring to it — may we always see God’s creation and its infinite opportunities for us to bring new blessings to it.