Musings: September 11 Voices and Perspectives
We arrived home Sunday night, September 9 from the fifth annual Harvest Gathering with smiles glowing, hearts open, minds and souls awakened. This year's Spirit of Change spiritual gathering was blessed with an abundance of friendly, inspiring people, gorgeous weather and many gifts of healing received in private moments as well as through ceremonies shared with those who attended.
Hardly a complaint all weekend was heard as families and couples and friends and individuals shared in each other's company through spirit-inspired workshops, art and play activities, sacred ceremonies, outdoor exploration, concerts, drumming and just hanging out together. The overall effect of bringing a few hundred people from a variety of cultures and healing traditions together for a weekend in a spirit-centered way, is that everyone ends up feeling better! You can almost hear the audible sigh of relief – people relaxing into who they were meant to be, who they want to be, letting down their walls and feeling the sensations of their hearts and souls – and Mother Earth's – once again. Harvest Gathering inspired us all to look towards the possibility that spirituality could one day be the balm that soothes and heals us into the rhythms of a peaceful, healing world. We lived it for the weekend; we know it's possible.
And then, just two short days later, on September 11, we all watched in horror as the reality of world terrorism entered our lives. Even as we watched the misery unfolding a mere three hours away in New York City and felt the fear of terrorism right in our own homes, we longed to pretend it wasn't really happening, that we were back at Harvest Gathering, that it was all just a drama playing out on the screen. But in the hours and days and weeks which followed, it became increasingly evident that our lives will never be as comfortable and carefree again. The bombed out center of New York City stands conspicuously as a still-smoldering reminder that the American Dream has been shattered. We are no longer invincible; our leadership has been challenged. It's time for Americans to reflect on where we are to go from this crossroad where we stand.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
Make no mistake; we did not deserve this attack. No one does. This bombing was an evil and unholy deed and there is no excuse for any person or organization ever to terrorize any other. Likewise, for us to retaliate by bombing another country and creating millions of refugees in the process is evidence of our own misguided, terror-filled thinking. You cannot create peace through violence, especially in the hostile and unstable climate of the world today. On the contrary, America is poised to take up its leadership position as the world's most influential superpower and bring justice and insight – even enlightenment – into the realm of world affairs. But to do this requires that we bring humility and honesty to bear on our understanding of why this attack occurred in the first place. Only then will we have the clarity to accept responsibility for mistakes we have made and implement changes inspired by visions of global transformation and cooperation. Violence and domination cannot defuse the terrorists' agenda against us because "they" have literally become a part of "us." Some even live in this country.
In fact, this "war" is not even about Islam versus the West; it's about humanity struggling against itself to fully awaken our moral conscience. Through our own short-sighted thinking, seeds of terrorism – against people, against nature, against love – have been planted everywhere; violence and strife are abundant. The technology we so skillfully developed and eagerly marketed around the world has been turned against us. We've sacrificed our environment, resources and biodiversity in favor of globalized trade agreements (which means cheap consumer goods for us) and accepted pollution and global warming as a normal part of the deal. We've turned a blind eye to the depths of human suffering people are forced to endure in Africa and Central America as a result of war, disease and hunger when we, ourselves, live in a land of plenty. It is reported that America is not innocent of waging war against civilian populations, either. My good friend says these world events are signs from God saying, "Armageddon tired of all this." Could this be the time of great change as foretold in prophecies from all cultures around the world and throughout time?
Confronted with the reality of our vulnerability in the world today, Americans are now personally challenged to discover the path which leads towards global peace and unity. In his poem, "Vision" (see page 46), poet Douglas Worth tells us he "saw nations vie with each other to be the first to eliminate the three Ps: Poverty, Pollution, Prejudice, directing the spirit and surge of competition towards a healing species-wide end…." He saw "eager clamborers up the ladder of status and clout insist on a pay cut at each higher rung and begin to diminish the insane disparity between the towering rich and the groveling poor…." He saw "the Big Apple slice itself into ten million equal pieces whereby everyone had enough and no one too much…" A true leader is willing to sacrifice self gain for the good of the whole. Is America ready to lead "with liberty and justice for all?"
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL
On a positive note, Americans' first response to the attacks on September 11 was to pray. Although invisible, the power of prayer is enormous, both for the people and situations the prayer is directed towards, and also for the individuals doing the praying. Numerous cities and towns across the country (and around the world) held prayer vigils, gatherings and memorial services in the wake of the tragedies. Public schools were directed to observe moments of silence and prayer, while official announcements from the government included bold references and appeals to God and for people to pray. Even though we hold many different and conflicting ideas about God and spirituality, Americans' basic instinct to respond with prayer was swift and widespread. This is a good sign for our people because it means we share a common spiritual grounding, a strength which perhaps we didn't even recognize was ours, a potential vehicle for victory.
In the days which followed, we saw many other strengths of the American people come forth as well: patriotism for our country, compassion for the victims and a rush to volunteer aid, a recognition that prejudice against Muslims who live in this country could take root and a call to avoid such attitudes, a desire to understand Islamic culture and teachings, restraint against responding immediately with violence. For many, travel, trade and commerce activities slowed down dramatically for several days right after the attack as our priorities were reorganized. Suddenly, staying in touch with each other became more important than our possessions and busy lives. People were kinder and more courteous about others' feelings because they were more in touch with their own. New York City schools reported a decrease in behavior problems, while donations and fundraising activities reached unprecedented levels of generosity around the country. Even our own partisan and petty legislature quickly mended its differences to stand strong and united. The terrorist action meant to tear us apart has actually brought us closer together.
Now, as the weeks roll by and new fears and threats continue to surface, Americans have a choice to make. Yes, we need to strengthen our homeland security and defense, remain on vigilant alert, and investigate, analyze and follow up every lead that will help thwart further attacks and break up the network of support for terrorist violence anywhere in the world. But, what have we learned? Will we continue the campaign of franchising corporate America and indenturing countries all around the globe or are we ready to share our wealth and knowledge with developing nations so they can become self-sufficient economies on their own? Have we recognized that global corporate prosperity inevitably requires the oppression of poor people and the siphoning off of natural resources at the expense of somewhere else on the planet? Are we ready to teach ourselves and our children to invest in creating a more sustainable culture: buying and consuming less, buying local, reusing, conserving, developing sustainable energy sources? Most importantly, are we ready to sow seeds of love in our daily lives instead constantly stirring up muddy waters with our thoughts, words and actions? Yes, those seemingly insignificant steps towards promoting peace and goodwill on the planet are infinitely important in strengthening the vibration of healing which surrounds us continuously.
Deepak Chopra says this issue, "…if you and I are having a single thought of violence or hatred against anyone in the world at this moment, we are contributing to the wounding of the world." Living now in this time of uncertainty and change requires that we summon up our reserves of patience and care to go the extra mile, and that we never give up hope. Our ripples of positive thought and action spread their healing vibrations far and wide. Even peace takes practice and only practice makes perfect.
Carol Bedrosian is publisher and editor of Spirit of Change Magazine .