A Pause to Think of Brussels

Late last summer, on a journey to explore science, nature and natural history in Europe, Pamelia and I chose to go to Brussels. She had never been there. I had not gone since a Sports Illustrated writing assignment in the 1980s. We were eager to share the millennium-old city's famous mussels and frites, enjoy the world-heritage-caliber art nouveau architecture, taste the sublime chocolate and, not least, visit the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, home to iguanodon dinosaurs and one of the world's best galleries on human evolution. 

The city of surrealist painter Rene Magritte now finds itself in the surreal world of modern terrorism.

Today's news of the horrific bombings in Brussels—senseless, heartless, pointless—has taken our minds and sympathies back to the city and people we fell in love with. That museum gallery of human evolution, with its beautiful renderings of the many hominin species that preceded Homo sapiens, had no model on display of the modern terrorist, a biological creature no different from the rest of us except in the twisted workings of its brain. Someday science will unlock the mechanisms and mysteries of the amazing three-pound thinking organ inside our skulls. Someday we'll better understand the chemical processes in the brain that lead a person to think that murder is a good thing, that vengeance is noble, that blowing up innocents is a path to eternal life. We're not there yet, and so we mourn victims on days like today. We hope that fear does not overtake reason and courage. We send love and deepest sympathy to the people of lovely Brussels.

Here's a slide show of some of our Brussels images, taken on the Eurostar train from London and throughout the city—on the streets, at food stands, inside the Institute of Natural Sciences, by a memorial chunk of the Berlin Wall, and by the European Parliament, where large outdoor banners listed ways by which poverty and lack of education in the world could be reduced. One of the banners asked, WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO DO? GET INVOLVED!  A thought for all of us to ponder.  —Craig Neff and Pamelia Markwood