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The Boston Globe


The Podium

How to make sense of an incomprehensible act

Make sense of a senseless act? It may be impossible. Yet we try to do just that, because the nagging feeling that something senseless has reshaped our lives proves intolerable. We fiercely resist disempowerment. If we are disempowered, our lives lack meaning.

How does meaningfulness arise? People with a spiritual life inside a religion turn to their faith to interpret experiences as senselessly horrible as the Marathon bombings. But even within a coherent system of ethics, senseless acts are still inexplicable. Those who live outside a faith tradition may have a philosophy that diagnoses a heinous crime, but they may have nowhere to go for solace, which is often a component of religion.

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