9/11 Remembering – what?
9/11 Remembering – what?
Yesterday was a national day of remembrance. As life moves on – what will you hold from those memories?
My husband told me that yesterday was the most important civic day of his live. Surprisingly, I concur. As a relatively new American citizen, I started the day with intention to remain in the awareness of 9/11. I started by prayerfully weeding the memorial garden here at Stonehaven – the large rock we raised that day still stands, surrounded by scores of tiny stones symbolizing the lives lost. All week the news media had re-opened my heart to the tragedy of the anniversary, bringing back the chilling horror but laced with hope in the resiliency of the human spirit.
What a gift to be able to worship later on that morning in my local community of faith, where the service gave space to remember, to heal, and to continue to hold our personal and corporate pain. There was no sweet icing of eternity slathered on the messy but hearty substance of our American life. I am grateful for that.
From there Uli and I went in to Philadelphia – to Rittenhouse Square – one of the physical hearts of the city. We are suburban dwellers much of the time, and removed from the intensity of urban life. It seemed important to join the invitation of a Muslim friend, to be part of a well planned, ‘Hands across the Square’ inter-faith service of memorial. As an Imam eloquently and passionately invoked blessing for the service to follow, I wondered why the square was not brimming with thousands of people. Where was everybody? Surely they had not all traveled to New York, or were meeting in one of the other memorial events of the day? The Mayor and hundreds of faithful were certainly there, but it was evident the coffee shops within sight were bustling as usual, and even many of the dog walkers just kept on walking.
It is clear that religious tradition operates as a reverse magnet for much of our society. Like ancient history, what has become of the compelling force in religion? Like the 9/11 memorial services, are we consciously forgetting one of the tap roots under-girding this frightening day of remembrance? How do we hold onto the diverse truths of our heritage and walk with confidence in community, honoring all our differences? How do we mourn past injuries and discover the hope of the future together? Surely this must be done in community.
Our next event yesterday afternoon was the most heartening of all. At the Penn Museum, a social impact company, Outside the Wire LLC, offered a free dramatic reading and town-hall style discussion of Cato: A Tragedy. We were mesmerized by a play written three centuries ago about the final days of Senator Cato in his last stand against Julius Caesar. Curiously enough, it was a play illegally requisitioned by George Washington for his continental Army when encamped here in suburban Valley Forge – this was a play written about, and from, the heart of humanity.
This was also an interactive event. Our dialogue circled around the impact from the 9/11 attacks. Skilled actors, very diverse panelists and an impassioned audience engaged thoughtfully and truthfully. What made this event so compelling was that we spoke from the deep places of our hearts. We remained grounded in the timelessness of history and were free to express our differing persuasions about war, peace and progress. We broke social norms yesterday afternoon: we talked politics and religion (but left out the sex-scenes from the play for time’s sake!)
Where in our neighborhoods are we gathering to dialogue around the things that challenge us most? Where do we ask our most soul-troubling questions? Where in a community group can we speak and not just be spoken to? I believe that much of religious experience fails when there are few safe spaces to question and listen, and not be told the answer. In the same way, academics grope to find words for philosophical ideas and historical meaning, but often relegate the passionate world of emotion to bedrooms, bars, sport stadiums and political meetings. Where can we be all that we are and still remain in a diverse community and find ways of acting together to right the frightful wrongs of injustice? A play from three hundred years ago still speaks eloquently to the human soul. I am grateful for all those yesterday who had the courage to call us to ongoing conversation about how to bring change to the deep tears in the fabric of our civic life.
Each one of us longs to tell our stories, to speak our truths in a circle of respect, to be mirrored – seeing the reflections of both goodness and evil within and without our private lives. That is why here at Stonehaven, we offer a place for this kind of dialogue. We do not yet offer dramatic theater on our commons property- but we offer poetry, art and the compelling silence of nature that often speaks loudest of all.
I end today with a remarkable book that explores this critical juncture of heart conversation and community change. Parker Palmer, has just released “Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. Join in a Tuesday conversation with Parker on Oct 11 – check out http://stonehavencommons.com/ for registration for this, and for all our fall circle offerings at Stonehaven.
What will you remember from yesterday? I’d love to hear from you.
“For those of us who want democracy to survive and thrive, the heart is where the work begins—that grounded place in each of us where we can overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten our unity as openings to new life for us and for our nation.” Parker Palmer from “Healing the Heart of Democracy”