A Spiritual Look At 9/11, Part II
And now, it is time to turn this article towards America, and Americans, for I have something to say to you, also, not just to those who struck at us on 9/11. Much of what I have to say is already written here, evident in the things I have said to others. Still, I need to speak to you directly. Let me begin with a story:
Once upon a time, there was a doctor. One day, a man, dressed in rags, came running into the doctorís house with a knife, trying to kill him. "How come you never come to my home?" he screamed, as he began to slash at the astonished doctor. "My wife and children are all sick, they are dying, but here you are, in your nice home, with all your fine things, living it up, while my familyís life fades away! You hypocrite! You monster! Well - just as you are killing them, by never coming or looking our way, so, by God, I will kill you, now, just so you know what it feels like!" The doctor, fighting off the enraged intruder with household objects, finally managed to subdue him. Whereupon, calling the police, he exclaimed: "Please, come quick! A madman has just broken into my home, and tried to kill me!"
Now that the would-be killer has finally been led away to prison in handcuffs, what should the doctor do? He has been attacked, insulted, wronged by someone who broke into his house like a madman, trying to kill him. Yet, through this awful and bizarre experience, he has just learned that there is a whole house filled with dying people who require the immediate services of a doctor. Obviously, the would-be assassin lacked the most fundamental skills of communication. He spoke with hatred and a knife, and came poisoned with assumptions, rather than seeking another, more constructive way to state his case. For this reason, he has been met with force. But now, the doctor is left with a decision: should he forget about the dying people in the house, because the way they were brought to his attention was by means of a crime? Or should he honor his doctorís vow, to cure the sick and ailing, to heal the afflicted, and go to them, because, regardless of the man who chose to represent them with a knife, they are human beings and have need of him? Would going to these sick people, now, and curing them, be an act of cowardice, an act of "giving in" to the crazy knife-wielder? Or would it only be a way of fulfilling a basic human duty?
Similar questions are sure to arise in the wake of 9/11, regarding our country and its relation to others. While al-Qaidaís anti-American jihad of terror seems to be an undeniable act of extremism, we must ask ourselves if, beyond that violent fringe of resentment, there are larger pools of anti-American resentment in the Middle East, and the world, at large - and, if so, what is behind that resentment. Illusions? Ignorance? Envy? Jealousy? Frustrations misdirected? Or is it possible that we might be doing something to provoke that anger, stepping on somebodyís toes? Sleeping with somebodyís wife? Doing something wrong, or neglecting to do something right?
I think it is clear, for those of us who are courageous enough to seek truth before comfort, that we are widely resented throughout much of the world (though there are, of course, many who admire us, as well). As for the why of that resentment, there seems to be a very complicated mixture of reasons, ranging from the utterly unfair to the undeniably concrete.
Here is not the place to go into a detailed social, political, and economic critique of US history and foreign policy in the Middle East, or in the world. What is in order, here, is to insist that we must have the moral bravery to look at the actions of our government, our military, and our corporations through history, with an objective and compassionate eye, and master the ability of being able to place ourselves in the position of others, to try to see how the things "we" are doing look and feel to them. This is a good starting point.
Take the case of another 9/11. 9/11/73 (September 11, 1973.) In that year, and on that day, the United States government helped to promote a military coup against the elected government of Chile - a coup in which the Chilean military overthrew and killed President Salvador Allende, and imposed a harsh dictatorship under the iron-fisted leadership of General Augusto Pinochet. During his brutal period of rule, thousands of Chilean civilians were rounded up on account of their political beliefs, hurled into prison or exiled from the country. Torture was widespread. Large numbers of prisoners were shot in cold blood, while many others were "disappeared" - seized by government agents and made to vanish without a trace. This is not a case of "conspiracy theory", this is a documented fact, and contested by no one, not even major figures from the US government who were involved in the operation. Of course, the US had its reasons for helping to engineer the coup. (Everyone always has reasons.) The question is, could any reason justify the atrocities that were committed, the human life and hope that was destroyed?
9/11/73 - the other 9/11 - provides an open window of insight into the anger which much of the world feels towards us, today. It is one historical example which symbolizes how our nation sometimes violates the very principles it claims to hold sacred, in that case overthrowing a democracy when that democracy no longer served our purpose. What the world saw then was a country that valued the well-being of its corporations (such as ITT and Anaconda), and their profits, more than "freedom" or "justice." It saw a country which excited the worldís hope with beautiful words, then betrayed those words with dirty actions. And the case of Chile was not unique. There were other coups and invasions: Panama, 1903, Guatemala, 1954, the Dominican Republic, 1965, to name but a few. There were the actions of US corporations, like the United Fruit company, which raised and toppled presidents in Latin America for many years, and used the most heavy-handed of tactics to destroy all competition. Throughout many parts of the world, workers felt underpaid and abused by our corporations, and resented the huge profits that these companies took back home, while so many people in their own country were living in abject poverty. At the same time, US banks made huge and not always responsible loans to foreign countries, whose economic projects often collapsed when international commodity prices dropped, cutting the value of their exports and stranding them with huge debts that drained vital resources away from their impoverished economies, and the desperate needs of their people. Once trapped by debt, international aid agencies, dominated by US interests, made their support conditional upon governments following political and economic policies which may countries felt restricted their independence and their options. (For example, removing price caps from basic commodities, laying off government workers, and allowing crucial utilities to be privatized - which usually meant being bought up by foreign multinationals, who were then free to raise rates for electricity or even water, without regard to the hardship inflicted upon local populations.)
I do not want to turn the US into a monster, here, especially considering the behavior of other world powers and nations throughout history. What I do want to demonstrate is that the behavior of the US, at certain times and places, has given us a bad image, the image of a big bully, a hypocrite, and an exploiter - which has become the basis of a terrible myth that has been constructed about us - a myth which much of the world, sadly, now believes to be the truth. Just as the myth of the "terrorist fanatic" unjustly robs the human truth and beauty of the vast majority of the Arab people for many Westerners, so the myth of the rich American bully steals our reality and our beauty from the eyes of many throughout the world.
What they do not know is that most of us are just hard-working, honest, decent people, born and raised here, trying to make a living and to get by. Few of us are exploitative executives, or ruthless CIA agents. Nor are we as rich as the rest of the world thinks, for the money we make is often swallowed up by the high cost of living, and there are vast numbers of us who live from paycheck to paycheck, barely making ends meet, living under constant economic pressure. There are many families that canít afford doctors, there are job layoffs, unemployment, there is crime and pollution, and yes, even people evicted from their apartments and homes. For most of us, itís not just a life of leisure, sipping rum in the plantation mansion.
What they also do not know is that most of us have very little to do with formulating the policies of our government. We are tired, consumed by our work, and want to be with our families and friends in the little free time we have. Parts of the world filter through to us through our media, and on that basis we elect political representatives whose actions we are often only vaguely aware of. (For example, how many of us are really familiar with the voting record of our senators and congressmen?) When we are attacked, it is normal that we band together and defend ourselves.
Quite clearly, we are not the evil monsters our enemies make us out to be. And we did not deserve to be attacked on 9/11/01.
I do know, however, that there are some people who see 9/11/01 as karmic payback for 9/11/73 (and all the other abuses which 9/11/73 stands for). I have thought about that theory, long and hard, wondering: did we have a right to cry about our own dead, on 9/11, when "we" caused so many to die on that other 9/11? And: is it possible that, as each individual soulís action generates karma - consequences, for what has been done, which must be faced in the future - so nations, with their actions, generate a collective karma, which applies to the whole nation and everybody in it? Is it possible that 9/11/73 was the real birthplace of 9/11/01?
Perhaps for the same reason that I reject, as literal truth, the episode, in the Book of Exodus, in which the first-born of Egypt are all killed by God in order to punish and break the will of Pharaoh - for why should babies and children pay for the stubbornness of a king they did not even know or comprehend? - so I reject the idea that so many innocent people should be killed to pay for the karma of a nation, which they did not control, and direct in its moment of sinning. Though I could be wrong, I do not see divine morality as a force which operates in this way.
Maybe all the people who perished in the tragic destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 were actually sinners paying for the misdeeds of their past lives, some say. Again, I do not agree. (See my article, "Misuses of Reincarnation.") In that theory, I see only a desecration of the dead, a betrayal of abused human beings, in order to find a convenient explanation, which simplifies the cosmos (bringing peace to some) at the price of devaluing the victims. (To me, it seems as wrong to view the victims in this way as to imprison a man his whole life for a crime he did not commit.)
Some say the victims were actually chosen by God, or agreed to play the part of victims, in order to give something of great importance to our country: perhaps the example of their valor (in the case of many of them, especially members of the fire and police departments, but also many ordinary civilians who stayed behind to help others when they could have escaped.) The lesson of courage made possible by the dimensions of the tragedy, was surely a great inspiration for all of us. Or perhaps these souls fell in order to give our society a "heads-up" on the dangers of terrorism, and to help us initiate a new stage of preparation, giving birth to new procedures, technologies, and levels of vigilance that could protect us against future attacks, before the terrorists got their hands on far more deadly weapons. In that sense, the victims of 9/11 may have given their lives as soldiers on the front lines of the war against terrorism. These souls may have, unbeknownst to us all, accepted the responsibility of being our first line of defense, and paid the price demanded by their vision. Or, perhaps, the victims served another purpose - one God had chosen them for, or they, themselves, had opted to accept in the unconscious dimension where souls play a part in making their own fate. Perhaps they gave their lives, on 9/11, to reveal, to all of us, the terrible anger which many feel against our country, and to give us an insight which could help us to find, through that anger, deep wounds which are in urgent need of healing if our world is ever to be fair, and safe.
It is useful, in the case of a tragedy like this, not to automatically assume that the victims must be paying for something awful that they or their country did - (an assumption not only of Islamic extremists and simplistic interpreters of karma, but also of some influential American Christians, like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who believed that "pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians" had turned God against us) - but to also consider the possibility that these souls may have been actively engaged in carrying out some mission that was supremely constructive for the earth: that they were not necessarily paying back a karmic debt, but may have been increasing a positive karmic balance; that they were not necessarily being punished for crimes they had committed, but may have been seeking out something good that they could do. Although this way of viewing the sacrifice on 9/11 may seem very strange to the average observer, it is a common belief among many deep spiritual thinkers that the soul is not merely Fateís pawn - and that blessings and disasters are not simply like iron filings attracted by the magnet of the soul, good attracting good, and bad attracting bad - but that the soul is also endowed with a will, and able, on a level beyond our human consciousness, during this life, or before it, to chart out a part of its journey, and if it is particularly noble, to choose hardship, if hardship brings soul growth and life for others.
I think it is important that the victims of 9/11 be extracted from any perceptual formulas which cast them as karmic debtors or sinners - damned by their own actions or by the actions of their nation - whose time of payment had come. It is important for their families - and for the spiritual clarity of all of us - to exonerate them, and to honor their innocence, which is not the same as perfection.
For the families, it is also important to understand that the murdered loved ones are well now, that death is not the end. Many already feel this in their hearts. They cherish, and miss, but also know that love is stronger than death, and that the bonds have not been broken, only changed. And the opportunity is presented, for those who are left behind, to expand and deepen their senses, so that the awareness of this truth may be more vividly experienced - and perhaps, with this awareness, understanding of many other things will also come. For families who lost loved ones on 9/11, I strongly recommend the TV program "Crossing Over", with John Edward, a talented spirit medium whose mission in life is to show those who live that those who have "died" are actually still with them. He has done some work with families affected by 9/11, but all of his work helps to drive this crucial point across - that death is not really death, and that separation is but an illusion - and to thereby bring comfort to the grieving, and hope to the devastated.
Whereas it is vital for the wounded families to realize that their lost loved ones are well now, on the "other side", it is just as vital for the terrorist to realize that it is still a great sin to inflict earthly pain and suffering upon any sentient being. Even if the soul lives after the body is destroyed and the family is left heartbroken, there is no redemption in this for the killer. No more than a man who shoots and robs someone, and leaves him in the street to die, can be forgiven if he fails to kill his victim, who somehow survives in spite of his wounds. The pain inflicted, the grief caused, the cruel intent will all be burned into the soul of the criminal, whether his bullet succeeds or fails.
But not to become lost. I now want to ask you, America, what is in your heart?
You have been cruelly struck, and that blow - misguided and undeserved though it was - opens your eyes to a world filled with resentment. Some of this resentment may, indeed, come from envy, and from jealousy. There are many people, throughout the world, who feel weak and powerless - not just poor people, but also, many times, middle class and even upper class people, as well (the 9/11 hijackers, for example, were not a band of poor mountain villagers). These people may have been exploited by their own leaders, and by their own economic and social system. They may have been abused or hurt by their own families, or been denied opportunities that meant everything to them. Their dreams may have been broken. They may have come to feel trapped and useless in their lives. And America - powerful, rich, a giant among nations, may have come to symbolize, for them, everything they wanted in life but could not achieve or reach - everything higher than them, which won all the attention, the glory, and the love - everything cruel and stronger than them, that suppressed them and denied them: a father, a custom, a village chief, a city boss. Hating America, for these wounded souls, became a way of venting the pain of their own frustrated lives; while seeing America hurt and its giant towers brought down, became a way of bringing down everything that made them feel small, in their own heart and in their own land. In this way, much of the hatred against America which is felt by people throughout the world, today, may be merely a sense of inferiority and rage that has very little to do with America, and much more to do with things that are going on in their own lives and in their own cultures.
On the other hand, as 9/11/73 ought to make very clear to us, our country has done tangible and unfair things to harm and anger many people throughout the world, in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, particularly. It is important to understand, at this time, that there is a big difference between a "guilt trip" and morality, between self-deprecation and the longing to be morally great. There are many who will not allow any criticism of America at this moment, which is in many ways understandable, since we feel threatened and want to love ourselves unconditionally, so that we will be able to defend ourselves more vigorously (one always fights harder for what one loves). And yet, here is where two terrible mistakes may be being made - one moral, and the other practical.
On the moral level, it is not right to harm others; and it is just as wrong to deny that one is harming others, if one actually is. One should never cheat on the road to self-love. One should earn what one gets; one should love oneself because one likes what one sees, not because one does not see what one does not like.
I have often heard those who seek the easy way to love themselves, call those who cry out whenever they see an injustice, "bleeding heart liberals", as though it were a sin to have a heart that bleeds. Is it better to have a heart of stone? A heart that has no pity for the dying? I have often heard them pass off as "guilt" what is really a love of Humanity. Perhaps this is the hour to redefine what it means to be a patriot. Perhaps this is the hour to remember that a patriot does not always need to be in a uniform, charging with a bayonet into a land he does not understand; that a patriot may sometimes be a man like Martin Luther King or Henry David Thoreau, who is able to say "No", when others say "Yes"; who is able to say "We made a mistake" when others say "Itís all their fault"; who is able to say "We need to improve" when others say "We are perfect"; who does not close his eyes to avoid seeing his errors, but opens his eyes so that he may correct his errors. Having a heart does not mean being a fool. It does not mean laying down to die. It means raising oneís life to a higher level, and giving a greater meaning to oneís struggle.
There are most certainly many things that we can do, from the moral point of view, to improve this world, and, as a side benefit, diminish the resentment that exists against us. Look at what we are doing now, in our own country, to try to inject a higher form of ethics into corporations such as Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia Cable, and ImClone, whose immoral and selfish behavior has harmed American investors. Why not make sure a high level of ethics also permeates our corporate activities in foreign countries, so that our corporations acting abroad do not project a false impression of who we really are. Why not be more generous with foreign aid? Why not listen to U2ís Bono and others like him who are arguing for debt forgiveness, why not try to take at least some of the crushing debt burden off of the backs of nations that can barely stand as it is?
Yes, I know this is "the real world"; and yet, our hearts are surely a part of that real world, just as much as dollars, and armed with enough love, we should be able to win more room for our hearts to act.
Regarding this, remember what "our own" holy book, the Bible, says: "Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?" And Jesus replied, "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these [my brethren], ye did it not to me." [Matthew 25:44-45.] Besides the vast tracts of poverty which cover the earth, what of other dismal disasters, such as the carnage in Rwanda, which no one raised a finger to stop? The world is wounded in so many ways, and the price of our power is also that the world expects more of us; and that our inaction hurts more people. (Just as it is the strong swimmer who is most to blame in the crowd that watches a child drown off shore.) This is not "bleeding heart" guilt, THIS IS WHAT SPIRITUALITY IS ALL ABOUT. Did not Jesus also say, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mindÖ" And, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." [Matthew 22:37-40] What more is there to our spirituality?
Then, there is the question of hypocrisy. No one likes a hypocrite, it is one of the most infuriating things in the world. People have more respect for someone who says, "I am a thief and Iím too much for you to handle", than for someone who says, "I am your friend, I love everybody like my own mother", then robs them when they arenít looking. Jesus also had something to say about this: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widowsí houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation." [Matthew 23:14] We canít go around talking about democracy, freedom, justice, and liberty in one place, and act to destroy it in another. (9/11/73) We canít practice or support ethical double standards, allowing ourselves and our allies to get away with things which we would condemn our enemies for doing, call crimes, even. The rest of the world is not brain-dead, heartless, or soulless. It sees what is going on, and these actions create a terrible sense of indignation, and cast a dark shadow of suspicion over everything we do. Thanks to these terrible inconsistencies in our policies, and the sometimes awful gaps between what we say and do, much of the world now sees our moral values as but an empty smoke screen for our power plays. We have ceased to be a moral light for the world, and lost the awesome force of sincerity, which is the greatest weapon any nation can have in its arsenal.
Everything we know about spirituality teaches us that we must not deal with the pain of our faults by denying them, but by overcoming them. It is not self-hatred, but the desire to love ourselves more that drives us to this. It is not a lack of patriotism that impels us to confront our mistakes, but our desire to be able to be greater patriots.
Everything we know about spirituality also teaches us that spiritual power is not gained easily. You do not just put it on like a new hat or a new suit of clothes, and keep on doing everything the way you were doing before; it is something that must grow deep inside of you, and come from you, and it is often painful as it changes the shape of your heart, and takes away many of the things that once sparkled in your life. Spiritual power demands sacrifices. Just think of the lives of Christ and the Buddha. Generosity may mean doing with less for ourselves. Justice may mean overcoming our anger or our fear, which is sometimes harder than killing or dominating others. Compassion may mean taking risks. Peace may mean not getting everything that we wanted. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, in his great introductory book, The Heart of the Buddhaís Teaching: "To practice Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva), you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others." (p. 113) Discipline and hardship may result, as we seek to gain moral independence within our society, and guide it, in place of being swept along by it.
I speak much more about all this in The Message of Rainsnow, which presents my own theories and model for carrying out a spiritual and cultural transformation of our society. I think it is important, for our own growth, to develop our individual wills to the point where we are capable of meeting the formidable challenges involved in increasing our spiritual and compassionate natures. We must then not only radiate this energy everywhere we go (become as candles to the house), but also make conscious efforts to become more involved and better control the political and economic actions of our society abroad.
On the practical level, this effort will serve us, also. As John F. Kennedy realized in the early 1960s, armed threats against our country need not always be one-dimensionally viewed as a military/police problem; they often have powerful socioeconomic origins, which need to be understood and addressed if the military side of the problem is to be solved. At that time, faced with the possibility of Communist revolutions throughout Latin America, President Kennedy responded with a combination of military power (new counterguerrilla forces and techniques were developed), and foreign aid and reform packages, meant to stimulate economic development in Latin America, promote democracy (in the place of dictatorship), eradicate the desperate poverty and sense of hopelessness that was believed to be the breeding ground of the Communist revolutions, and convince Latin America that the US was a friend, not a bully or exploiter. The program was called the "Alliance for Progress", and by means of it, President Kennedy hoped not only to bomb and shoot the guerrilla movements which already existed into defeat, but also to give the people of Latin America another option for progress and change, and to turn them away from the revolutionary violence that had grown out of their despair. The concept was strategically brilliant, but Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and as time went on, US commitment to the project gradually waned. There were the problems at home, and then the Vietnam War, and other distractions, as well. Until, to many Latin Americans, it seemed that the Alliance for Progress had become nothing more than another effort at manipulation, a kind of bribery attempt not produced out of the goodness of our hearts, but out of our desire to control them in more subtle ways. Poverty and despair remained. Revolutionary violence returned, and grew, as did repressive military dictatorships. Or pseudo-democracies, sustained by dictatorial methods, such as death squads and political assassinations.
Nonetheless, Kennedyís approach highlighted the connection between violence and the social conditions from which violence arises, and demonstrated the importance of looking at military conflicts in a deeper way, of seeing beneath the skin of battles to the heart of despair and rage where the rebel fighter is born. In the case of 9/11, it is clear that our country needs to take a deeper look at the Islamic world - vast, turbulent, diverse, often deeply resentful and suspicious of us. This does not mean that we should rush to "reward" those who have harmed us with economic aid. It means that we should seek to isolate al-Qaida and any intransigent terrorist force from the rest of the Muslim world, by reflecting upon our policies and actions in the Middle East, and whenever possible, making greater efforts to be fair, just, and compassionate in our relationship with that world. The core of al-Qaida, and others like them, want to be the fuse that ignites the entire Muslim world and arouses it to jihad, against us. We must cut the wires between the fuse and the "bomb", so that the spark of the terrorist elite does not unleash the power of the masses; and the way to do that is to win back the trust and respect of those al-Qaida wishes to mobilize against us.
To do this, we must work hard to deconstruct the myth of the "Evil American." Just the same way I have told the champions of Muslim points-of-view that they must deconstruct the myth of the "Evil Arab Terrorist" if they are to bring peace and life to their people, so we, in the US, must undo the myth that we are a giant, uncaring, prejudiced, and cruel nation, stepping on the poor people of the earth. We must do it patiently, but meaningfully, with actions that begin to erase the old image, the same as they must do it, concretely and sincerely. We must do it in a deep and genuine way, because people can smell a lie; can smell a ruse; can smell a half-step that comes from the same old place. And in order to do this - to emerge in a deep and genuine way, from out of the shadow of the myth that defines us for so many - we must delve deeply into our spirituality; for the hardships and sacrifices on this road will be many (though less, in the long run, than if we did not travel on it). Only in the soil of a true and revivified spirituality, can the mighty human beings capable of growing too high above the myth to be concealed by it, emerge. And this is the truest way to peace that I see, not only in the Middle East, but in the world.
Though, in the short term, there will be conflict, terror, and retaliation, the path of spiritual growth and development, genuinely pursued, is what can gradually lead us away from all those dark things, towards higher ground.
Let us start in that direction now, the sooner the better, to save all the precious lives we can.
Text of "The Deeper Wound", a message printed by Deepak Chopra in The New York Times, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks
As fate would have it, I was leaving New York on a jet flight that took off 45 minutes before the unthinkable happened. By the time we landed in Detroit, chaos had broken out. When I grasped the fact that American security had broken down so tragically, I couldnít respond at first. My wife and son were also in the air on separate flights, one to Los Angeles, one to San Diego. My body went absolutely rigid with fear. All I could think about was their safety, and it took several hours before I found out that their flights had been diverted and both were safe.
Strangely, when the good news came, my body still felt that it had been hit by a truck. Of its own accord it seemed to feel a far greater trauma that reached out to the thousands who would not survive and the tens of thousands who would survive only to live through months and years of hell. And I asked myself, Why didnít I feel this way last week? Why didnít my body go stiff during the bombing of Iraq or Bosnia? Around the world my horror and worry are experienced every day. Mothers weep over horrendous loss, civilians are bombed mercilessly, refugees are ripped from any sense of home or homeland. Why did I not feel their anguish enough to call a halt to it?
As we hear the calls for tightened American security and a fierce military response to terrorism, it is obvious that none of us has any answers. However, we feel compelled to ask some questions.
Everything has a cause, so we have to ask, What was the root cause of this evil? We must find out not superficially but at the deepest level. There is no doubt that such evil is alive all around the world and is even celebrated. Does this evil grow from the suffering and anguish felt by people we donít know and therefore ignore? Have they lived in this condition for a long time?
One assumes that whoever did this attack feels implacable hatred for America. Why were we selected to be the focus of suffering around the world? All this hatred and anguish seems to have religion at its basis. Isnít something terribly wrong when jihads and wars develop in the name of God? Isnít God invoked with hatred in Ireland, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, and even among the intolerant sects of America?
Can any military response make the slightest difference in the underlying cause? Is there not a deep wound at the heart of humanity? If there is a deep wound, doesnít it affect everyone?
When generations of suffering respond with bombs, suicidal attacks, and biological warfare, who first developed these weapons? Who sells them? Who gave birth to the satanic technologies now being turned against us?
If all of us are wounded, will revenge work? Will punishment in any form toward anyone solve the wound or aggravate it? Will an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a limb for a limb, leave us all blind, toothless and crippled?
Tribal warfare has been going on for two thousand years and has now been magnified globally. Can tribal warfare be brought to an end? Is patriotism and nationalism even relevant anymore, or is this another form of tribalism?
What are you and I as persons going to do about what is happening? Can we afford to let the deeper wound fester any longer? Everyone is calling this an attack on America, but is it not a rift in our collective soul? Isnít this an attack on civilization from without that is also from within?
When we have secured our safety once more and cared for the wounded, after the period of shock and mourning is over, it will be time for soul searching. I only hope that these questions are confronted with the deepest spiritual intent. None of us will feel safe again behind the shield of military might and stockpiled arsenals. There can be no safety until the root cause is faced. In this moment of shock I donít think anyone of us has the answers. It is imperative that we pray and offer solace and help to each other. But 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.
A passage on the power of compassion, from Jack Kornfieldís After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path (p. 235-236)
The truth is that in the spiritual life, our awareness of suffering actually increases over the years. We see and know more clearly the sorrows of the world. We can no longer hide from their occurrence. With this knowledge comes a deepening compassion.
No matter how extreme the circumstances, compassion is possible. Once on the train from Washington to Philadelphia, I found myself seated next to an African-American man whoíd worked for the State Department in India but had quit to run a rehabilitation program for juvenile offenders in the District of Columbia. Most of the youths he worked with were gang members who had committed homicide.
One fourteen-year-old boy in his program had shot and killed an innocent teenager to prove himself to his gang. At the trial, the victimís mother sat impassively silent until the end, when the youth was convicted of the killing. After the verdict was announced, she stood up slowly and stared directly at him and stated, "Iím going to kill you." Then the youth was taken away to serve several years in the juvenile facility.
After the first half year the mother of the slain child went to visit his killer. He had been living on the streets before the killing, and she was the only visitor heíd had. For a time they talked, and when she left she gave him some money for cigarettes. Then she started step by step to visit him more regularly, bringing food and small gifts. Near the end of his three-year sentence she asked him what he would be doing when he got out. He was confused and very uncertain, so she offered to help set him up with a job at a friendís company. Then she inquired about where he would live, and since he had no family to return to, she offered him temporary use of the spare room in her home.
For eight months he lived there, ate her food, and worked at the job. Then one evening she called him into the living room to talk. She sat down opposite him and waited. Then she started, "Do you remember in the courtroom when I said I was going to kill you?" "I sure do," he replied. "Iíll never forget that moment."
"Well, I did," she went on. "I did not want the boy who could kill my son for no reason to remain alive on this earth. I wanted him to die. Thatís why I started to visit you and bring you things. Thatís why I got you the job and let you live here in my house. Thatís how I set about changing you. And that old boy, heís gone. So now I want to ask you, since my son is gone, and that killer is gone, if youíll stay here. Iíve got room, and Iíd like to adopt you if you let me." And she became the mother of her sonís killer, the mother he never had.
Excerpts from the song "Sinceridad" by Rabito, a song that calls on Christians to be true to the commandment of love preached by Jesus: wise words for our times
Eso es lo que hace la diferencia entre el bien y el malÖ
Palabra pequen~a que tiene gran peso en la eternidad
Si no la vivimos de nada nos sirve orar y orar
Hoy es el dia en que tu puedes cambiar
Deja ya de lado todo lo que te hace mal
Abrele tu corazon sinceramente
Y arregla con El tus cuentas frente a frente
Dios esta pidiendo a su pueblo que tenga sinceridadÖ
Thatís what makes the difference between good and evil
A small word that carries a great weight in eternity
If we donít live that way, all our praying is worthless
Today is the day you can change
Leave behind everything thatís damaging your soul
Open your heart sincerely
And, face to face, settle your accounts with God
God is asking all of us to be sincereÖ
A Spiritual Look At 9/11, Part I
Weapons of Depth Contents