Monday, July 15, 2002

I'm not really up to blogging today, and I came across this reflection so I thought that I'd just throw it into the mix.

I used to think that we were a generation lucky enough to escape history. We would live our simple satisfied lives far removed from the great currents that sweep through time. I imagined my localized world as a little eddy where nothing of great significance would ever happen. Even after the towers fell, it felt more like a local problem than one that might have any major ramifications.

What I remember most about that day is the sense of suspended belief: the brilliant sky, the inexplicable gash in steel and glass, the rumor that what we saw were bodies falling…falling. It wasn't a time for questions or anger or even fear. It was a moment of suspension … a glitch in the Matrix, and then an endless moment of simple necessity. I stopped in a Church and was surprised to find myself at a Mass. I stopped in a pub for news and was surprised to find myself ravenously hungry. I was surprised by the simple solicitude of quite ordinary strangers. I was soothed by the small enclave of Muslims who offered water to the walkers as we trekked the miles to our homes.

New York changed that day. The memory of gentleness is not one that she has yet succeeded in shaking off. New Yorkers still catch each other's eyes at times and smile reassuringly. Suddenly how we treat each other matters.

In New York, we live in an international world that vibrates with the rhythmns of a multitude of cultures. We brush shoulders with strangers and share our personal lives with diverse people. In doing so, we never seem to ask the really tough questions. We assume a shared humanity and a certain universality in values.

It's difficult to understand that there were mosques in my own neighborhood where people celebrated the victory of 9/11. It helps to know that there were mosques where the congregations divided as a reaction to that tragedy. I don't really want to ask on which side of the question my moslem acquaintances stand.

After the events of September, I devoured everything that I could find on Islam. It was almost an obsession that I understand Islam well enough to know where I stood in relationship to it. I found much to worry me and little to console me. I think that it is a human religion of the true God and it is therefore insufficient. I imagine that it is a religion that has great appeal in its simplicity and its fatalistic beauty. I think that it is stronger than secular humanism and perhaps stronger than Protestantism. Mostly, I think that truth matters and the true religion matters most of all. It is only in this truth that we will find our universal salvation.

Yet in the meanwhile, I put aside the larger issues. I continue in the implicit faith that our small kindnesses matter. There may be places in the heart where my friend stands as an enemy before me but I have no wish to visit there prematurely. We must live faithfully in the aftermath of a brilliant September morning. We must continue in the belief that how we treat each other matters. Most especially, we must preach and practice the Word of God.

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