Well, it's that time of year again. What time you ask? The time to think of the living and the dead? No, not exactly. Rather the time to think of death as an end to an era and the rebirth of something wholly new. We reflect on how we have evolved these last nine years. As always September 11 is commemorated this week all over the city, the nation, and perhaps the world. The words "Never Forget" pop up on T-Shirts, buttons, and car bumpers. At Ground Zero, the thousands of names of those who perished in the tragedy are read. Trinity Church offers prayers for healing. At St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street, my spiritual home, several hundred New York City firefighters gather for a memorial mass under the direction of FDNY Chaplain Christopher Keenan OFM in honor of Father Mychal Judge, colleagues and loved ones lost. It is a time for mourning, for healing and most of all a time for renewal.
I was here in New York in those bleak months. September 11 affected my life personally with losses of friends, colleagues and fortunes. Life as I knew it was over. I can only think of my life now as before 9/11 and after. But then so it goes for the world. Life for none of us has ever been the same since. Millions of soldiers and innocent people died in our post 9/11 world and still do. Families are torn apart all over the globe in retribution, just as they were here in New York on that day. The amount of bloodshed resulting from these tragic events in our eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth world is unfathomable. When, we wonder, will the cycle of vengeance and violence ever end?
I reflect now on what I have learned. So much, I don't know where to begin. Perhaps I am somber this day thinking of all there is still left to do. Yet I remember that through darkness always comes light. Even in the worst moments of our lives something good can be gleaned. Only nine years later, it seems on the surface nothing is resolved; the wars rage on; the killings never cease. Where is the hope we search for now?
In those dark days, many of us tried to think of how to transform all this pain into something good. Out of the rubble, a new idea emerged--the belief that we could make a better world. Yes, in the midst of that sadness, hope was born. In America we were fighting a war in Afghanistan and preparing for another in Iraq, while so many others were imagining ways to stop it. I was writing about Spiritual Capitalism--the possibility of creating wealth and power while honoring human dignity and
You may think, like oil and water, spirituality and pure unadulterated profit don't mix. No they don't, not until you shake them up. We were shaken up on September 11, 2010 right down to the very core of society--the pursuit of America's dream of money and wealth. The World Trade Center was the symbol of American power in international finance and commerce; it was destroyed by two of our own planes. Our power made us a target. Our negligence did us in.
Clearly these were vicious, vengeful, monstrous acts--yet few can miss their symbolism. Angry disenfranchised people felt compelled enough to sacrifice their own lives to destroy our monuments to great wealth. Say what you want about the struggle between Islam and Judeo-Christian culture, at the heart of it all, the issue is money & power and the suffering these two forces cause those left out.
Money and power kept in the hands of a small and fortunate few breeds terrorism, war and revolution. That's just a fact. Somehow it is a fact we keep repeating over and over again throughout history. Yet in the midst of those tragic events and the hate they generated before and since, a revolution of consciousness has occurred. Spiritual capitalism through practices like socially responsible and sustainable business, social entrepreneurship, and generally doing well by doing good is a very real possibility. Money and power, as many of us have discovered, can just as easily relieve suffering as it can wreak destruction.
In these nine years, a spirit of unity and community has evolved too. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the effort to recreate September 11 as a National Day of Service. A day when everyone stops in their own lives to take a look at how they can help relieve another's burden--just like we did that day nearly a decade ago. If it taught us nothing else but how to put aside our own needs for a moment and offer concern for another then that is a monumental step in our evolution.
As we think about the dead and living, we have a chance to be reborn to a new way of thinking. We can let go of mourning by accepting healing. We can let go of remorse and regret and embrace renewal. We are born again into a world where love triumphs over hate, and a spirit of unity trumps indifference.
In St. Francis, a mangled piece of twisted steel from the Twin Towers is displayed in the sanctuary in memory of those lost. In the middle of the angry remnant of destruction, a sculptor's bronze rose rises as symbol of hope for renewal. It represents the light that can pierce through darkness. We too can rise to a higher plane of consciousness. As we move through this world of money and plenty, and poverty and lack, struggling to make sense of it all, we remember the rose and the beauty that exists in each of us. With September 11 and our Day of Remembrance, hope emerges powerfully once again.
If we feel despair, we can remember we are part of the solution not the problem. To keep ourselves steady on the bumpy path toward a better world, we must never forget--the rose"