I read this article by Jeanie Miley in our local paper today. It touches on so much of what I believe in..my faith, if you will. For me, this extends much further than 9/11 and into the every day.
"We've wasted the experience," the man on television said, assessing our culture in this decade following the terrible events of 9/11, and the more he talked, the worse I felt.
Thankfully, the most important counsel I was given during those days following 9/11 came back to me, just at the right time, and I found myself back on firm ground.
We have two choices: love and fear.
In a sermon at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Dean Alan Jones had acknowledged the horrors of what had happened. Speaking to a shaken congregation, he brought the people in his care back to a startling, liberating reality: In spite of what has happened, you still have a choice as to how you will live your life and how you will respond to what happens.
There's no question that the world has changed radically in the last 10 years. All of us see the world differently. We experience ourselves differently now, and it's a sinister temptation to live in negativism, quaking in fear, attacking perceived and real enemies with our thoughts and our words and alternately playing the victim or the persecutor.
Are we any safer? Are we worse off or better off? Have we learned the lessons, or have we, in fact, wasted the experience? Do we live in fear of each other or love for each other?
I get brain-lock if I try to answer those questions from the collective "we." It is only when I can muster the courage to ask myself those questions that I take back my sense of personal power and freedom. So it is that on this significant anniversary of the 9/11 event, I am compelled to endure the discomfort of yet another personal and fearless moral inventory.
So it is that I must ask myself: Am I allowing fear to seep into my thinking? Then, as a natural result, am I allowing fear to seep into my decision-making and my behavior?
Who are my enemies now? What people do I fear or hate now that were neutral to me in an earlier, more innocent (or unconscious) era?
Am I better able to differentiate between real danger and perceived danger? How much do I let myself be governed by the tyranny of fear?
Am I clearer today about what loving behavior really is? Am I more generous, more compassionate, more forgiving now than I used to be? Do the people I say I love know that I love them? How do I show the love I say I have to the people who matter most to me?
In what ways do I exhibit courage? Do I know the difference in myself between courage and aggression? Am I stronger, or am I just tougher? Am I stronger or just more cynical and hard-hearted? Am I more or less open-minded and open-hearted? Is my discernment finer?
In conversations, do I contribute to the positive and energetic flow, or do I participate in "ain't it awful" and the conversations that focus on how bad things are? Am I more prone to blaming or am I willing to participate in finding solutions and giving encouragement to the people who are trying to find answers to what sometimes must seem to be insurmountable problems? Am I a bridge-builder or a wall-builder? Am I a peacemaker or am I someone who contributes to conflicts? Do I know what I, personally, contribute to a problem?
I am told that the difference between a mature person and an immature one is the capacity or willingness to be self-reflective. Being able to assess your own weaknesses and strengths, admit your failures, accept responsibility for your very own personal flaws and defects, all are signs of maturity. The difficult truth I must admit is that on some days I have more of an appetite for those often uncomfortable processes than others.
I return to the piercing question, "Am I choosing love or choosing fear"?
I want to choose love, and I hope I have the courage to do that."