There is light amidst the dark­ness

The hu­man spirit is a re­silient one that can find hope in the face of the most ter­ri­ble events.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Opinion - star2@thes­tar.com.my Sandy Clarke Sandy Clarke has long held an in­ter­est in emo­tions, men­tal health, mind­ful­ness and med­i­ta­tion. He be­lieves the more we un­der­stand our­selves and each other, the bet­ter so­ci­eties we can cre­ate. If you have any ques­tions or

OF all the de­scrip­tions of hu­mankind, per­haps the most cre­ative came from the French math­e­ma­ti­cian Blaise Pascal who de­scribed humans as, “the glory and the scum of the uni­verse”.

Pascal’s words came to mind as news broke on the hor­rific at­tack on con­cert­go­ers last month, as they left the Manch­ester Arena in north-west Eng­land hav­ing en­joyed a per­for­mance by Amer­i­can pop star Ari­ana Grande.

As up­dates re­vealed that 22 peo­ple had been killed and many more in­jured, the world re­acted with many ex­pres­sions of raw emo­tions.

When I read about the vic­tims of the at­tack and of the fam­i­lies so des­per­ate to hear whether their loved ones were safe, it was dif­fi­cult to avoid shar­ing those feel­ings that arise in dread­ful cir­cum­stances. Anger, con­fu­sion, sad­ness, and de­spair was felt the world over that the lives of in­no­cent peo­ple were need­lessly dev­as­tated in such a cruel and bar­baric man­ner.

When­ever such atroc­i­ties oc­cur, it doesn’t feel like there’s much glory in hu­man­ity after all. It seems like barely a month goes past without some as­sault on our free­doms by a tiny mi­nor­ity of peo­ple who rep­re­sent noth­ing ex­cept their own con­fu­sion and the fear they seek to in­stil. But when­ever ad­ver­sity strikes, our hu­man spirit al­ways seeks out a tiny flicker of hope, of some­thing pos­i­tive that can be made brighter even in our dark­est hour.

And we saw that in Manch­ester, in the midst of the heartache, des­per­a­tion and grief, as the city’s peo­ple banded to­gether to cre­ate a lit­tle light that soon shone bright in the face of ter­ror and fear.

It was im­mensely heart­en­ing to see so many peo­ple of­fer­ing their sup­port to those in need. Taxi driv­ers of­fered their ser­vices free of charge, and peo­ple opened up their homes to con­cert go­ers who needed a safe place to stay and con­tact their loved ones. Within three days, on­line crowd­fund­ing cam­paigns raised £5mil (RM27mil) for the fam­i­lies, and West Ham FC co-owner David Sul­li­van of­fered to pro­vide six months’ free ac­com­mo­da­tion to a home­less man who rushed to help vic­tims on the night. The man, known only as Steve, was tracked down after a plea was made on Twit­ter from Sul­li­van’s son ask­ing for peo­ple’s help to find him.

That April 22 at­tack was sup­posed to fos­ter fear, ter­ror and con­fu­sion; and it suc­ceeded, but only for a short time. This kind of vi­o­lence is also de­signed to di­vide peo­ple – a goal that al­ways fails as ev­ery­one ral­lies around to help those in need as much as they can. It’s in this space that we find the glory of mankind in all its splen­dour.

Far from be­ing fright­ened into with­draw­ing from the world, the peo­ple of Manch­ester showed that no amount of fear can with­stand the strength and de­ter­mi­na­tion of those who come to­gether in friend­ship and sol­i­dar­ity.

The English philoso­pher Bernard Wil­liams once said that “man never made any ma­te­rial as re­silient as the hu­man spirit”. Hor­rific events through­out our re­cent his­tory un­til to­day have also shown that no ad­ver­sity ex­ists that can de­flate the hu­man spirit for long: no mat­ter how hard the hit, we al­ways bounce back stronger than ever. Manch­ester is a city steeped in his­tory. It’s the birth­place of Em­me­line Pankhurst, who led the Bri­tish suf­fragette move­ment in the early 1900s and cam­paigned tire­lessly for women’s right to vote. It’s where Alan Tur­ing rev­o­lu­tionised the way we com­mu­ni­cate through his work in mod­ern com­puter sci­ence, and where Ernest Ruther­ford first split the atom in 1919. The first Rolls Royce car was built in the city, and to­day’s English Premier League has its roots in Manch­ester where the coun­try’s first football league was set up in 1888.

With its rich his­toric cul­ture of mu­sic, ar­chi­tec­ture, art, and lit­er­a­ture, Manch­ester is a city that has seen its fair share of tri­als and tri­umphs. Just like the city it­self, those who call Manch­ester home are still stand­ing, strong and de­fi­ant in the face of a ter­ror that tried to change their way of life.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to know where and when any fu­ture cow­ardly at­tacks might oc­cur, but we will un­doubt­edly deal with them in the same stoic spirit of de­fi­ance, love and sup­port as al­ways.

As Grande poignantly wrote in a touch­ing open let­ter to her fans, “Our re­sponse to this vi­o­lence must be to come closer to­gether, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder, and to live more kindly and gen­er­ously than we did be­fore.”

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