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Boston, Marathons, Motions of the Soul

Boston, Marathons, Motions of the Soul

By Dan Johnson

Hi. I’m Dan Johnson and am very grateful to be writing this piece today having recently joined the staff here at Loyola. Some of you may remember a blog or two from me four or five years ago when I previously had the honor of working with the great staff here. I stepped away to serve as the Executive Director at Christos Center, and now am excited to once again focus primarily on offering spiritual direction. By way of introducing myself, I thought I would share a brief story and a reflection.

Two days ago, I returned from a trip of visiting family and then going on to Boston. During the Boston leg of the journey, I stayed right downtown which made it very easy to explore Boston walking. One morning I stepped around the corner of the public library on Boylston Street and noticed a couple of other tourists “pretend” running down the street right next to the curb with their arms up in the air while a friend took their picture. Once I got to the place where they were running, I saw what had motivated their enthusiasm – painted right across the street in three-foot tall letters were the words, “BOSTON MARATHON FINISH LINE.”

I am not a runner. In fact, I don’t even walk the dog very fast. But even so, the Boston Marathon is a cultural icon. The images of the runners coming across that point on Boylston Street after a grueling 26.2 miles inspire me. The work these folks put in months ahead of time, the miles they run for training, and the qualifications they need just to have an official spot in the race all speak to a persistence and passion that I admire.

The Boston Marathon is also etched in our cultural psyche because of the tragic bombings in 2013. Right there, just a few strides before the finish line the first bomb ripped through the space filled with spectators and competitors. In an instant, the focus was torn away from celebrating accomplishment to chaos. The news flashes began streaming out and the first responders began pouring in.

So here is where it seemed like grace nudged me as I began to consider how one geographic location can have such profoundly different experiences associated with it. Those far away events became more real to me standing there in the spot where they happened. I felt them in my core, my inner landscape with its own moments of persistent passion and at other times unexpected chaos. I was seeing a new metaphor for movement of the soul, returning to familiar places but having different emotional responses, the stuff of prayer.

I have a meeting set up with my spiritual director in a couple of weeks. I think I know what will be on the top of my list to talk about.

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