“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” T.S. Eliot
There are just days when I want to run away from the reality of the world. While September 11 brings all kinds of thoughts to the minds of people everywhere, for some reason it most reminds me of this part of myself that wants to flee.
I vividly remember that day. I was on my way home from working out at the Barium Springs Y, sweating and tired and happy, thinking of my workday ahead, and had Bob and Sheri on the radio. I was only half listening at first, but realized quickly that something was off on their regular patter tempo. That got me listening. At first I thought it was something on the level of a modern day “War of the Worlds” and thought to myself “What are they thinking? This just isn’t working!” But it wasn’t a dramatic production….it was the reflection of the confusion, fear and horror of an event that was real and happening as the world watched in vivid color….and those in the media grappled to figure out to do next.
I got home in time to see the second plane hit the building and it was just all so surreal. I watched for quite a while and then turned off my TV. I didn’t turn it back on for a long time. I still feel the same….I don’t have the need or desire to watch the events over and over. Once was enough for me (though I haven’t been able to completely avoid seeing it again and again, I have tried.) Those images are seared on my brain. The horror the people must have felt. The sight of people throwing themselves from the building. The conversations of those who called people from the airplane or from their offices when they realized what was going on. The chills I still feel from the words “Let’s roll.” The absolute horror of how little it takes to change a world and change the direction of many, many lives. The aftershocks of it have shaken our earth.
It seems especially poignant to me today, in 2012, because there seem to be an extraordinary number of those I love are who are facing their own life terrors. Their own personal time of fear. Some are self-inflicted, most are not. All tear at my heart and make me feel helpless. What can I do to make it better?
For those facing fear because of the choices they have made in their lives, I struggle with how I should feel. I am someone who is not prone to being an enabler, and am a firm supporter of there being consequences in life for all we do, whoever you are. Yet when it is someone you love, part of you wants to shield them from those consequences, even knowing that would not be for their own good. But these people need to bear the weight of their own burdens, or they will never learn to make pure-hearted decisions.
The things we choose to do set off little chain reactions in the lives of those we know and don’t know. We don’t always see the result of the havoc we cause. But if you think about it, every single thing we do or don’t do has a consequence in this world. Those who live their lives selfishly and sinfully and hatefully and rebelliously don’t notice the impact they have on all of those who surround them. Those who flew those planes into the buildings were so caught up in their own stuff that they had no vision for the ways their actions would hurt people for generations to come. Or maybe they did know. I don’t discount that there are people who are that evil. We see them on a small scale all around us, and would like to make excuses for them, but some people do seem to live to create havoc and pain in even their smallest actions. They never seem to learn, they never seem to care about the impact. I figure they must create stories and justifications in their mind as to why what they do doesn’t matter. They are so self-absorbed, they can’t look beyond themselves. But they hurt people and the story of their lives just very well may be that they destroyed and walked away, never turning back around and facing the destruction they caused. Frankly, they are losers. They lose not just because of their bad choices, but because their lives burden instead of brighten.
In contrast to that type of people, are our real life winners. Those who face tremendous obstacles and it brings out the best in them. They may have a horrid disease, sick child, a parent with Alzheimer’s who doesn’t recognize them, they may lose or hate their job, get a divorce, lose their money, or have an accident that limits their abilities. Yet regardless of their circumstance, these people face their challenges with grace and faith. Even in the midst of it all they notice that there are others around them in pain, and try to give comfort. They may say “Why me” on occasion, but then quickly follow that with “Why not me?” They use the terrors of their lives to bring peace to others in the world. We see them live their lives and find inspiration. They show us that when someone builds their life on hope and truth, they may be shaken but they will not fall. They brighten the world, and while they would endure their own burden, we want to help carry it.
On this 9/11/12, I encourage us all to pay attention to our choices. We must learn to be people of balance. We should love others as we love ourselves, but sometimes we also need to remember to love ourselves as we love others (once again, check your balance!) We need to make sure our well stays full, so we are prepared to offer a drink to those who are thirsty. We need to know that many of those around us have experienced, or are experiencing, horrors that we may never realize. Sometimes it has created scars that make them ugly….and sometimes it has created scars that make them vividly beautiful.
We need to watch out for fear. Fear drives so much of the pain in this world, but we often try to hide it with our habits and our emotions and deflect it with our humor or our anger. We need to be on the lookout for masked fear. The baby who crying because they can’t see their parents, the child who is afraid of the dark, the teenager who is afraid that they don’t fit in, the young person who can’t seem to get a handle on how to live an adult life, the middle aged person who is looking at their life and feeling much of what they have done is worthless, the older person who is seeing their friends die all around them and are scared of being alone. Fear is a commonality, and often is the reason why a lot of terrible things happen. Those who are afraid sometimes do crazy things. Isn’t it better that we try to ease their fears (or our own fears) before that happens? Fear makes us angry, fear builds walls, fears keep us from experiencing real life, fear incapacitates us and makes us unable to fill or find our purpose. We shouldn’t always run away from fear. Sometimes fear is healthy and to be respected, but sometimes we need to run right into its path. Facing our foes and standing our ground. With righteous minds and kind and strong hearts. Sometimes with a hug or a handshake or a hand of support. We also shouldn’t always run from reality, though sometimes we feel the need to escape it for a short time.
To those who lost a piece of their reality on that certain 9/11 and carry scars, I pray that these days bring you peace and contentment. To those who are suffering their own tragedies today or who have already suffered other tragedies in your life (your own personal 9/11), I pray that not only will you too find peace and contentment, but that also that you will find a way to get beyond the pain and find a way to commemorate that thing or event with positive purpose. I don’t believe these terrible things are allowed to happen by chance….and I believe that somehow they can help others see the face of God. Wouldn’t it be better to re-purpose the pain, instead of recycling it?