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I’m not good at memorials. I grieve in my own manner and not by a clock. It seems that each anniversary now, we are offered the CBS Morning Show with Katie Couric, taking us minute-by-minute through the national tragedy.

I find myself with some sort of a morbid curiosity this year to hear it all again, noting the mistaken theories and facts as the event unfolded. It is often said, “everyone knows where they were when X happened.” This is one of only two occasions when I can confidently say that. Not just in general, for I can say that about a number of significant events, but the most minute details are seared in my mind. I recall what I said, the scenes play out in my mind.

Remember how we were just a little kinder to each other in the days following? We smiled sympathetically at strangers as if we shared something, just that one thing. With our loved ones, with our pets, we reached out to touch more. We, let’s face it, clung to each other finding other life re-assuring.

Remember how you thought kinder of President Bush for at least a little while? Remember how you listened to his words and sought to find comfort? Remember how the unlimited number of “random acts of kindness” brought tears to your eyes as you realized that people “really are good”.

Remember how politics ceased to matter and how our politicians seemed to coalesce around us as people dedicated to our democracy and our “way of life” and how the common good mattered more than any other thing?

Remember how we were stunned that any group of people could hate us, this diverse melting pot, enough to offer their lives to murder large numbers of our community? Could we be that bad? Had we been that bad? Did the world secretly cheer our agony?

For a remarkable time we were united as one people, banding together in our hearts at least as Americans. For even one such as me who places so little truck in displays of patriotism or even in the thought of it, the world shrunk to MY COUNTRY.

And here we are these years later, and whatever good came from that misery is no where apparent. At least to me. Our divisions have overtaken us and made us nearly murderously at odds with each other. We taunt, we insult, we cast every invective upon anyone who is “wrong-headed” enough to be on the other side. We both claim patriotism, we both claim right, and we are dangerously poised on the precipice of destruction.

We are fueled by greed for money and power and no longer (if ever?) care about the pain we inflict on others. We joke through e-mails that our company has screwed tens of thousands of invisible men and women out of their savings and out of their futures.

We are ideologues who preach our manifestos of political rectitude, and condemn disbelievers as ungodly monsters. We have staked ourselves as bastions of truth and declared all others liars. We either stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our President, or we hate him with a venom that is hardly imaginable.

Our politicians are increasingly answering only to those who fill their campaign coffers, and thus the need to control the reins of power becomes paramount to the public good. We delude ourselves of course that this is not true. We tell ourselves so many lies that in time we have made them us, rotting us to the core.

And through it all, we either scream at the top of our lungs that God will avenge us, his true followers, or that God is dead and we are fools to delude ourselves with fairy tales. We are increasingly looking out for “number 1”.

Have we remembered nothing? Have we learned nothing?

At times it seems not.

Do I really feel that pessimistic? At times I do. At other times, my natural belief that history shows that ours has always been a climb upward, makes me feel that in the end, things will be better.

It is such a big world. We are so tiny within it.  Most of us can do almost nothing that affects but a few. It seems at times useless. It is easy to turn inward and think only of “my little family.”

But there are philosophers and theologians, poets and playwrights, who write of the human spirit as the highest soaring element in our universe. There are painters and sculptors, actors, athletes, musicians,  whose talents infuse us with just how amazing we can be. There are precious moments of innocence, of laughter, of the realization that this world is truly beyond beautiful.

Our hearts sing, they gurgle like the pristine brook that collects and passes on mountain snow thaw. A doe pauses at the sound of an eagle’s wings above her head, then drops her sweet head and munches the meadow grass. A butterfly momentarily stops upon a unspeakably perfect flower. We feel, in that moment that we are good, life is good, and that we collectively are good.

And in that same moment, we know that that feeling is played out down through the eons, the centuries, the decades. It is what makes us strive on. It is what makes us human. We remember at last who we are–we can see everyone behind us, and we carry on.

Amen.

 

 

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