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The explosion in Boston reminded me of a brilliant Peter Cook joke from "Beyond the Fringe." This sketch was written in the early '60s, when the threat of nuclear war seemed constant and real. He played a civil defense authority giving the British public advice on how to avoid a nuclear attack.

"...We shall receive four minutes warning of any impending nuclear attack. Some people would say, 'Oh, my goodness me, four minutes, that's not a very long time.' Well, I should remind those doubters that some people in this great country of ours can run a mile in four minutes!"
The necessary name to know to appreciate the genius of this joke is Roger Bannister, the British runner who was the first athlete to run the mile in under four minutes in a sanctioned track meet. The four-minute mile was a long anticipated barrier to be broken in athletics, and when Bannister finally broke it, he became an international celebrity and the Pride of Great Britain. He still is to this day.

The juxtaposition of this tremendous accomplishment in the history of sports, rendered utterly futile against the potential devastation of a nuclear explosion creates a dark, dark absurdity that makes this joke the masterpiece that it is.

The disgusting shock of the explosion in Boston renders the joyous accomplishment of running a marathon into similar absurdity. Timed to detonate, not when the winner and perhaps a few runners-up crossed the finish line, but when the largest flow of the non-professionals cross the finish line, almost two hours after the winners crossed, folks whose principal goal was perhaps not to win, but just to finish, when their proud families waited to greet them and hail them as heroes, not of the athletic world, but of their own spirits. All cynically blown to shit.

The proper response to this came from another great comedian, Patton Oswalt.  His response is an instant classic, probably the most widely-distributed comment on the explosions in all of media.  If somehow you haven't read it, and if somehow you've read this diary this far, please read what he posted today.

Patton Oswalt's response to the Boston Marathon explosion

Cynicism is a cop-out. It gives us an excuse to do nothing and give up. It's also a stage some of us must go through to come out the other side, and emerge with an open heart, to see the world as it is, and to still continue to do one's best, because you know - because you've seen it and have lived it - that love and goodness exist.

We will continue to cheer life's greatness and laugh at the futile absurdity of evil.

Originally posted to TheWurx on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 10:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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