Like you, I'm sure, I've heard talk about 9/11 memorials for weeks, and this week a real ratcheting up of reminiscences -- some deeply moving and personal, and some typical so-called patriotic blathering.
I wish to mark the day by re-posting the following from my old blog: Karuna Notes, that I posted the day after September 11th. Sadly, the US took the reactive low road, and we are indeed a poorer nation for it. But for those of us living in NYC in those first few weeks after 9/11, we know -- we remember -- there was a shining luminosity of the heart shared by all of us. We had, however fleeting, a vision of the pure land.
poep sa frank jude
Wednesday, September 12, 2001
September 11, 2001
Yesterday, very much more than the Manhattan skyline was altered. America's psyche itself was utterly changed by the horror we (no matter where we live) experienced. What could hardly be thought, actually happened. With no TV, my wife and I listened to the shock in the voice of a local NYC reporter describing the fire pluming from Tower 1. We heard the horror in his voice as it reached a shrieking peak as he witnessed the second plane bearing in on Tower 2 and hittng it in a fire ball that was felt over a mile away.
Other reports, later, spoke of the "strange" calm and orderliness of the crowds as they walked through the streets and across the Brooklyn Bridge. I suspected it was evidence of shock. And of course, there was shock, but when I finally saw pictures, I saw, along with the grief and anguish, a palpable strength, determination and resolve. I felt I was witnessing the deep source of what is best in humankind -- here in the midst of the consequences of the worst of that which we are capable. I was moved to tears by the reports of aid given to each other by "victims," by the quick response of "average" New Yorkers, along with the valiant efforts of the City's fire, police and rescue operations. And of the death of so many of them -- true bodhisattvas.
But I was also dismayed at some of the "news" commentators and politicians and their quick talk of war and retribution. Mayor Guilliani, in a news briefing, told New Yorkers not to lash out at New York's Arabic/Muslim community, for that would be coming from the same hatred and prejudice that was at the root of the terror itself. I am pretty sure he was unaware of it, but he was paraphrasing the Buddha who counseled, "Not by hatred is hatred dispersed, but by non-hatred." Those who call impulsively for retaliation suffer from both fear and a stunted imagination. Yes, I can understand the fear, but after millenia of trying to do away with violence and aggression with violence and aggression, haven't we yet learned that it just does not work?!
To give in to our most base instinct is to betray what makes us truly human. If we capitulate to our own anger and hatred, we lose the possibility of transforming this tragedy into what it could become -- a watershed in the evolution of the world and of society. If we give in to blind rage and fear, we learn and change nothing, but if we respond with awareness, compassion and understanding, we give meaning to what otherwise is the senseless death of too many.
"Look how he abused me and mistreated me.... Live with such thoughts and you live in hate," says the Buddha. And look how quick we are to point fingers and try to assign blame. We sure do want to pinpoint the blame, and yet we fail to even look at, let alone pinpoint the causes and conditions. For this would require some real thought and some deep "soul-searching." To point to "the other" as evil is to objectify and diminish in denial the inter-connectedness we live within. "How is it that we can be the object of such hatred?" might be a question that could spur some real creative thinking. What is our responsibility for the existence of such hatred in the world?
Please, I AM NOT saying that justice should not be served. Those who are "directly responsible" must not be allowed to get away with this heinous crime. But blindly acting out of rage and some mixture of righteousness and victimization will only fan the flames of hatred in the world -- and not serve to bring peace or safety to anyone. We can only have peace when we live from peace and when we have done all we can to insure that all beings can live in peace.
promise me this day,
promise me now,
while the sun is overhead
exactly at the zenith,
Even as they
strike you down
with a mountain of hatred and violence;
even as they step on you and crush you
like a worm,
even as they dismember and disembowel you,
man is not our enemy.
The only thing worthy of you is compassion --
invincible, limitless, unconditional.
Hatred will never let you face
the beast in man.
One day, when you face this beast alone,
with your courage intact, your eyes kind,
(even as no one sees them),
out of your smile
will bloom a flower.
And those who love you will behold you
across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.
I will go on with bent head,
knowing that love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road,
the sun and the moon
will continue to shine.
_--- Thich Nhat Hanh