Fall 2001The other day, I went to Ground Zero. I accompanied a friend who had lost her father there in the attack on September 11th. The Red Cross took us down on a ferry. All of the volunteers and the police and the chaplains were unbelievably nice. Getting off the ferry at Battery Park and entering the area around what had been the World Trade Center Towers was like entering a waking dream, like a surreal lucid dream. I can still see every brick and every crack in the pavement. I can see every shattered building, including the huge crushed atrium facing the river, where we were told weddings were once held. I can see every acorn still covered in a fine white dust under the trees of the plaza. I can see the broken and streaked high-rise windows, and the huge girders of the World Trade Center Towers ramrodded into nearby buildings. I can see every flower layered upon flower mingled with pictures of smiling dead relatives, and stuffed animals (as if stuffed animals would somehow console the dead, or console the grieving family member desperate to leave something to let their missing mother or father or sister or brother or husband or wife know how much they miss them). I can see the hair of my friend in close up as I held her as she stared blankly at the destruction site of Ground Zero. I know I looked at the cathedral-like skeleton of the ground floor facades of the Towers. I know I looked at the gnarled wreckage of the crushed imploded buildings. I know I looked at the workers trying to clean up the seemingly endless pile of rubble. But somehow, I don't feel like I saw it. It is as if our brains aren't programmed to be capable of grasping such destruction. I supported my friend as she left a beautiful photograph (of herself and her father standing and smiling at an art show) on top of the bed of bouquets. I left in a thoughtless daze. I got back on the ferry and stared down into the waters of the muddy Hudson River. And I felt like time opened up there, like I stood for hours in a few minutes, thinking and praying and trying to understand it. When I came back to real time, I was unbelievably angry.
But, I wasn't angry at the terrorists. I was angry at any belief system, or ideology, or thought, or doctrine, that could cause such mass destruction and devastation. It is wrong. Any beliefs, ours or theirs, religious or political, that continue to cause destruction are equally wrong and must be fought against. In order for this beautiful world to heal, in order for the chaos to stop spreading we are all going to have to go to war against ideologies which condone or incite the killing of people and destruction of creation. We cannot stand by passively and hope our leaders will make the right decisions, we have to act. We have to come together to act responsibly, to pray, to be in communication, to stand vigil. For years, we haven't been paying attention. We have been dining and consuming while our nation has been getting its hands dirty. We've consumed and been in collusion. We haven't cared about the source of the oil for our SUV's or the advantage taken of laborers who have made our clothes. We've projected our shadows shamelessly onto the third world. But now potentially, we've been awakened. We have witnessed the mass nightmare of our collective unconscious. I pray that we don't repress it, I pray that we begin to look at ourselves and our problems and begin the long difficult process of healing. This is not the classic struggle between "good and evil" that our president suggests. We can't kill all the "bad guys," we can't extinguish all the evil in the world, or else we'd have to extinguish ourselves, let's stop now.
Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung said, "How can we see the world clearly when we cannot even see ourselves and the darkness we carry into all of our dealings." Evil is not "out there" somewhere, it is right where you are, waiting for you to give it a go, by turning to anger, hatred and fear. Mahatma Gandhi said, "You must become the change you want to see in the world."
America is a great country. The concepts of our founding fathers are brave and true. To achieve enlightenment and transformation through Freedom is a dignified goal. We are fortunate to live in an open society which believes in the free exchange of ideas. I have faith in Freedom. We should not allow our fears to chip away at our liberty. Franklin D. Roosevelt called the desire to come together in trying times like these, "the warm courage of national unity." But our cry of despair doesn't have to be a call for war. Don't give into the patriotic flag waving promotion of revenge. We can respond in a greater way. We can create. Paint, draw, dance, sculpt, act, write, photograph, record, film, sing, meditate, fast, and pray. We can meet in small groups with family and friends, and discuss what is going on in the world. We can call together a group of peers and decide what actions we can take to do something to stop the madness. Take action. Begin praying for Peace today. And may God hear our prayer.
Let love be genuine: hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good: Love one another with mutual affection: outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble for all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written,"Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12; 9-21