Inner and Outer Peace - 9/11
by Guru Rattana, Ph.D. - Number 37, September 21, 2001
I have gathered a few thoughts about the 9/11 events, which have definitely altered our lives, and imprinted a new era in our collective consciousness. I have received such insightful commentaries that it is not necessary to recreate their message and wisdom in my own words. I have included them below after my summary observations.
I have read a few astrological accounts that explain that Mars was opposing the void-of-course Moon.(1) Not the best aspect, but not one that everyone rushed out to warn us to run for our lives or stay home from work. The most telling is the Saturn-Pluto opposition. On August 5, November 2, 2001 and May 26, 2002 Saturn and Pluto oppose each other. Pluto rules deep psychological and profound political and social transformation. Saturn rules structures and signifies resistance to change. At its worst it is stubborn, reactionary and narrow minded. This opposition affects personal and world events for approximately a year before and after the first and last opposition.
An opposition can be a state of unity of opposing polarities. However, when structures are not in harmony, hostility of the two opponents are at a stand off. The opposition of these powerful forces is often associated with the following circumstances:
- some kind of restriction on our freedom and movement of resources
- economic recession
- war or elevated level of conflict
I will write more about the personal and collective dynamics of the Pluto-Saturn opposition in Issue 43. We are living in very intense times. Structural change is inevitable and resistance to change is guaranteed. The most important thing at this time is our consciousness. How will we meet the global challenge? The stakes are high. Our response will determine the future of the world.
The first person I talked to after the 9/11 event, said the first thing he thought of was his personal responsibility in the matter. He examined the anger he harbored within himself. Somehow he recognized that he had participated in the crime. I was feeling the same way. Every event is fueled and created by the collective unconscious. It is our anger that creates Saddam Husseins and terrorists. They many express it, but as a collective we are responsible for harboring the energy. Where is Pogo now with his cosmic reminder; "We have met the enemy and he is us"?
Ask Why and Listen
The real question is not who, but why? Obviously something is not working in our world. Some people are not getting their needs met. Some people feel that they never will. In their hopelessness they are willing to die and kill others. Let us listen with generous ears to everyone. We have much to learn and much wisdom to gain.
We all participate in the violence that is occurring on the planet. The reality of structural violence is, that it is inherent in a world economic structure that fosters and tolerates inequity, poverty and injustice. The global economic system is based on greed. Profits rule. The well-being of people is secondary and perhaps hoped for, but not an intended first priority. Comparative advantage makes sense in economic text books, but if the CEO of Nike makes $112 million a year (5 years ago) and kids and adults in poor countries get paid pennies to make their shoes, then the human factor also needs to be taken into consideration.
Below, Deepak Chopra asks why he hasn't reacted before to the violence and terrorism in the world. My answer is structural violence. Our society is not based on how we can help each individual live a fulfilling life and make their unique contribution to the world. If political and economic institutions were organized around contribution and respect for human beings, our institutions would have human welfare, not profits, as a top priority. We would know where to go to help and have communities to align with. No one would feel left out or marginalized. Of course, we would still have problems, but working together to make this world a better place would take priority over militarism and profiteering.
Structural violence refers to the fact that the system is so all-pervasive that we don't see it. Even if we see it, we are so tied into it we don't know how to change it. Almost everything we buy in the U.S. at very reasonable prices is made abroad, in factories that pay very low wages. We feel powerless because every day we participate without wanting to. It is so disheartening to know this and not know what to do. In our comfort and helplessness, we try to ignore the reality. We can't do that any more. Structural violence creates terrorism. Those who feel they cannot work through the system seek to destroy it. Some of us who feel thwarted and frustrated go into denial and become numb. Birds with their heads in the sand are easy targets. Our challenge is to change the system before we are destroyed.
The machine is broken. We can't hold it together any more. We have to change our basic assumptions, and shift how we operate, personally and collectively. We can't blindly disregard the rights and needs of certain members of the world community, and pretend like it is all right and will work out. We can't hope that the system won't break down. Systemic change is complex. There are no easy quick fix solutions. Our view of problem solving must also change. That is why we must all work together.
Every society has laws that help keep order and define the limits of social behavior. This is necessary, but there are inherent limitations to trying to control people's behavior from external rules and authority. Laws and religious commandments against killing people have not stopped people from killing each other. Laws against running red lights has not stopped people from running red lights. (Recent survey almost 60% people admit to running red lights. Now that is scary.) The bottom line is that external control does not motivate people to act in an optimal manner. It is our internal consciousness that determines what we choose to do, and not to do.
Consciousness is what we are talking about. The price of freedom everywhere is conscious action. Being conscious is the hardest task of all. It might be easy for the enlightened ones like Ghandi and Jesus; but even they had their problems. Most of us on the planet are not enlightened, even if we would like to be. Despite our good intentions and spiritual practices, it is hard to take a bath in the mud. Connecting to the Divine and staying connected, in the current collective consciousness of anger and fear of this Dark Age, is very challenging. We can and must wipe ourselves off with our spiritual practices. The sludge of the collective consciousness will pollute our waters again. That is why we have to meditate daily. This is our challenge. This is how we participate in changing the collective consciousness from fear to love.
It is also easier to act consciously if we are not preoccupied with survival; if we are able to care.
Everyone on this planet is under some kind of stress. We can't use any of our circumstances as excuses. We have to be willing and able to think in new ways. We have to be willing to feel in new ways. We have to be willing to BE in new ways. We must open our hearts and act with love. The good news is, the worst situations bring out the best in people, as we are witnessing now.
It takes far more courage (consciousness) to stand for peace, justice and forgiveness, and to accept responsibility for the realities we create (WE helped create Bin Laden), than it does to drop a bomb and blame an external enemy. We are so used to being victims, we rarely see how we create our own reality, let alone take responsibility for what we have created. This time we have to see and take responsibility. The alarm 911 has sounded. How do we respond? This time we must choose love not war. Those who do, are making an awesome contribution to shifting the collective unconscious from fear to love.
There are many ways of demonstrating oneness. The globalization of the world economy, and the depletion of the ozone layer, are just two that demonstrate our interconnectedness. The 9/11 tragedy is another. The most effective way is to actually experience oneness in our consciousness. Then we never have any doubts.
Fundamentalism, proselytization and religious fanaticism are based on the belief that there is only one way to God. Somehow, the religions that believe they are the only way, have not practiced the technology that gives the experience of oneness.
I am most touched by the story of Tiche Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist who has written many books on meditation. His wife and children were killed in the Vietnam War. Then he got remarried, had more children and they were killed. Then he decided to build a hospital that the Americans (Kissinger) then bombed. After it all he says (I paraphrase) "If we cannot feel the peace that is all around us, there is not hope for peace in the world". Wow! When I heard that I said, "I want that man's consciousness". I am also deeply touched by the grade school children (mostly black in a poor neighborhood) in my home town of Evansville, Indiana who, on 9/11 took the initiative themselves (without the adults) to organize a carwash to raise money to help those in New York.
In the midst of this tragedy, and the pain and suffering that occurs all the time all over the world, in the midst of grief, anger and fear, there is the space within where we all can gather together and experience silence, peace and love.
We might think we can strike back, but the enemy is all-pervasive. We can't blindly hit targets that discount civilian casualties in other countries anymore. We are reminded how we have misused American power and values. We have to grow up now.
We must also take a careful look at corruption in our country, at all levels, and tolerate it no longer. For example, accomplices like the INS Immigration and Naturalization Service officials who accepted money for visas from suspects of the Bin Laden group. Why did INS not only ignore warnings of their own personnel, but then, also harass whistleblowers who tried to prevent entry of known terrorists into the United States? Security and integrity starts at home.
How can I Contribute to Peace?
- The war against terrorism begins inside. We can identify and bring peace to our inner war.
- Help yourself and others get their needs met. Process, not repress your emotions.
- Smile and hold the place of peace in your mind and body. Do not reach out to get something or try to elicit or influence a specific response. Don't hold on to expectations of how others might react. Just simply and gently hold your space of love. Let your aura radiate caring.
- The big test is, can we experience love in the human body on planet Earth. Here it is again. Big time - Wake up and stay awake!
- I am going to say "God Bless this World with Peace" every time I see an American flag. Then I am sure that everyone and our whole planet is included, and pray that what America really stands for radiates throughout the world.
Below are thoughtful comments and commentaries that I have received via email. There are so many to choose from. It gives me hope to know there are so many beautiful people in this world.
Thoughtful Comments from the Kundalini Yoga List
Let us not get stuck in the "us" and "them" complex. This country is a creator of violence and so are others. It doesn't matter who did it, it matters how we respond, and responding with more violence will not prevent more violence from falling upon us. That is what karma teaches us. The only thing that can end violence is to stop committing it and look to God, pray, Love, and work together.
Over and over I observe my attempts to make sense of this tragedy - and that which is likely to ensue in the imminent future. I find that yoga practice is practically the only refuge from overwhelmingness. Even when practicing, meditating, and chanting, I feel connected to this community.
Now is not the time to harden divisions. To withhold your boundless love and soothing balm of your prayers, from the "evil" or "self-ignorant" people who test your faith, is to internalize and install these divisions within yourself, and could very well divert you from the path of awareness. Besides, these may be the very people who need your love and prayers the most of all.
Before I go out today to my daily activities I am taking the time to contemplate my unconscious, and harmonize it with my Conscious. As you can see, the world's unconscious is coming out through these painful images; it is said that we are completing a karmic cycle this Monday. We are evolving psychologically. I've chosen to write down, in humongous letters, the condition of my unconscious all over my walls in my room. It certainly feels strange, because I've just begun to bring out my "inner shadow". Fear, shames, illusions, dislikes, everything you have hidden inside since the day you were born, you must bring out and harmonize with your conscious. This is very important; bring love and peace to every part of your psyche.
Fierce Love from Stephen
As I contemplate what is most needed to alleviate the suffering produced by yesterday's bombing, I imagine the various levels involved: the suffering of the wounded, the abrupt ending of life for those who died, the grieving of families and friends, the shock of citizens who live in a city just attacked, and, perhaps most importantly, the vast sea of people - hundreds of millions or more - whose hopes and dreams and hearts have been tarnished in some way by this event. The wound opened yesterday will likely leave a deep scar on our collective psyche. Long after the rubble has been cleared, the dead buried, and the perpetrators found, the psychological and spiritual damage will linger, distorting our dreams, polluting our prayers, and delaying the global camaraderie that has begun to blossom.
Healing this tear in the fabric that unites us is perhaps the most important task for those of us who are distant from the more direct victims of the attack. The challenge is how to do so.
I believe healing begins with how we treat our own reactions and the reactions of those around us. When we meet rage with our own judgment of that, we freeze the healing. When we meet denial with our resistance, we short-circuit the natural process of grief. When we steamroller over fear, sadness, or vulnerability, we abandon some part of ourself. There are people who stand firmly in the belief that this was an evil attack upon freedom and we must have revenge. There are people who believe that the United States is finally getting its comeuppance for exploitation and inequality. There are some who see this as an opportunity to open our hearts to love and prayer. There are others who view this as cause to increase militarism. And, there are people, perhaps most, who cycle through a range of reactions, from grief to rage to compassion, trying to find some meaning in it all. Can we embrace each of them fully in their pain, in their outrage, in their fear, or in their desire for revenge?
By allowing ourselves to feel ALL of the reactions and ALL of the suffering, it gives space to let the wounding and loss work its way through our system. When we give others permission to do the same, we begin, in some small way, to heal the collective tear in the fabric that connects us. This allows us to begin to move closer to deep truth and deep love, a facet of which may be held in each camp, each feeling, each perspective, and each reaction. Rather than attaching to a single facet, we can begin to see the diamond as a whole, in all its paradoxical complexity.
Should we take strong action against the terrorists? Yes.
Should we open our hearts more fully to our "enemy"? Yes.
Should we allow ourselves to hate and rage? Yes.
Should we allow ourselves to feel the vulnerability underneath? Yes.
Should we see this as a wake-up call to right imbalances that fueled the hatred of U.S. hegemony? Yes.
The most complete truth is rarely found exclusively in one camp or another. It is usually found from being able to lovingly stand in multiple perspectives, be with many beliefs or feelings, and attune to the highest guidance possible about the truth in THIS moment. Reality is in flux. Life is complex. Truth must flow alongside all of evolution's meanderings. Love must awaken afresh in each moment, always asking how best to serve. One thing I want to distinguish here is the difference between full, fierce love, and the more milquetoast version that sometimes gets circulated as compassion. Fierce love is not afraid to hang out with outrage - they can be allies. It is not afraid of taking a stand. It may even implement a hard punishment, but do so out of love for the individual punished and the society.
The first precondition to embody fierce love, though, is clarity. While we are reacting to the most powerful emotions of the moment, we rarely feel clarity. Our bloodlust and desire for revenge might dictate our actions, rather than a deep knowingness of what best serves us individually and collectively. Before making irrevocable actions, we are better served to first find that clarity and, especially, a sense of deep love. Only then will our actions really be in service to the greatest good.
Oddly, emotion-dictated action and action born of fierce love, might look the same on the outside. For example, would someone in a space of clarity and fierce love have killed the hijackers in the planes en route to the World Trade Center if possible? Most likely, since that would have served the greatest good and prevented the greatest suffering. But, I suspect that someone standing in that place of fierce love would have felt sadness in doing so, as they resonated in with the personal and inherited suffering that drove the hijacker to his suicide mission. The action of killing may thus have fueled a greater sense of compassion and openness, perhaps even a desire to help alleviate the suffering of that hijacker's family or people.
This brings us back to the need to let the feelings flow. While bottled or unfelt, emotions poison our clarity. They cloud our vision. They sequester our love. Once we've really allowed them to pass through our system - not just some of them, but all of them - then we begin to feel into the fabric that unites us, the connective love that binds aggressor and victim and bystander in our innermost hearts. When we feel that connective cord, always, in each moment, then we begin to act with fierce love.
My prayer is that, collectively, we use the creation of this vast collective wound as an opportunity to become even clearer vessels for fierce, unconditional, unbounded love, a love that may even include "acts of war" done in a spirit of service. I pray that this becomes grist for the mill of collective advance towards true global community, rather than an excuse for wholesale regression into nationalistic militarism.
But first, I urge each of us to feel it all fully and help those around us to do the same, and thus ensure that in our small corner of the world, the collective wound begins to heal, and that we begin to access the deeper wisdom and clarity at our core.
Loss of Innocence - Dharam Singh
I can't let the images of the whole event out of my head. I don't know what to feel. First it was shock and then strangely, I felt outrage ... but not so much at the terrorists but at our leadership for playing games for so long on so many fronts. I.e., refusal to be at the Conference on Racism in Durban, obstinacy and arrogance in the Middle East conflict and always siding with Israel, the refusal to abide by the Kyoto Accord, and this wholesale disregard of the Salt II Treaty just to have a Star Wars missile defense system which, should be obvious by now, won't protect anyone. It is a fantasy and a cash cow for the military industry. Time to stop playing these fantasy games and get to the real peace. What, we gonna have more procedures to go through at the airport? Look at anyone who isn't white with suspicion? What kind of world do we want to live in? and what about the children?
I know as a kid it was the lack of maturity of the "adults" in my life that thwarted my sense of hope, community and a future. The "adults" of our nation, our political leaders, that are deeply hurting all of its citizens by not truly leading. This is an ongoing trauma that we have become numb to. Instead people are focussing their bitterness on "them" and not taking the hard look at their own leaders. Leaders who, by their very position, have killed ordinary citizens.
It is clear to me that it is sadness that I feel right now. I hope Bush and the boys can look at their sadness and do a lot of right things, not just one right thing. In a heart-centered world we come from a win-win position. We really need to talk and act from a place of service in all our dealings. We give what we can and it is up to others what to do with that.
The terrorists are not totally evil and we are not totally good. It was an evil, evil act for sure but in the minds of the attackers they think they are going to the highest level of heaven for what they did. We on the other hand are forced to look at our policies, both domestic and internationally. The fruits of our actions have really come home with this. Up 'til now it was way off somewhere else. It was even somewhat exciting, however sick, like at some movie, to watch the Desert Storm War with it's smart bombs. Well, Hollywood couldn't have done better special effects to pull off the events of Tuesday. This isn't another dress rehearsal, this is real.
We truly have lost our innocence this time. We all need to pray, but from a grounded awareness of what is really going on.
Sat Nam, Dharam Singh
From an American Afghani
(This letter made me cry. My best friend in Geneva for the six years I was getting my Ph.D. was from Afghanistan. He was getting his Ph.D. in international law, and planned to go back with his friends to serve his country. These people had so much integrity and commitment to the truth and justice in the world. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan they were unable to return. Another tragic story. GR.)
Yesterday I heard a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age". Ron Owens, on KGO Talk Radio, allowed that this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral damage", and he asked, "What else can we do? What is your suggestion?"
Minutes later I heard a TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done", and I thought about these issues especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years, I've never lost track of what's been going on over there. So I want to share a few thoughts with anyone who will listen.
I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I fervently wish to see those monsters punished. But the Taliban and Bin Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who captured Afghanistan in 1997 and have been holding the country in bondage ever since. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a master plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps". It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would love for someone to eliminate the Taliban and clear out the rat's nest of international thugs holed up in their country. I guarantee it.
Some say, if that's the case, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban themselves? The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, damaged, and incapacitated. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan - a country with no economy, no food. Millions of Afghans are widows of the approximately two million men killed during the war with the Soviets. And the Taliban has been executing these women for being women, and has buried some of their opponents alive in mass graves. The soil of Afghanistan is littered with land mines and almost all the farms have been destroyed. The Afghan people have tried to overthrow the Taliban. They haven't been able to.
We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble with that scheme is, it's already been done. The Soviets took care of it. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? There is no infrastructure. Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that. New bombs would only land in the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip away and hide. (They have already, I hear.) Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don't move too fast; they don't even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would be making common cause with the Taliban - by raping once again the people they've been raping all this time.
So what else can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. I think that when people speak of "having the belly to do what needs to be done", many of them are thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. They are thinking about overcoming moral qualms about killing innocent people. But it's the belly to die not kill that's actually on the table. Americans will die in a land war to get Bin Laden. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that, folks. To get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely.
The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I'm going. The invasion approach is a flirtation with global war between Islam and the West. And that is Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he wants and why he did this thing. Read his speeches and statements. It's all right there. At the moment, of course, "Islam" as such does not exist. There are Muslims and there are Muslim countries, but no such political entity as Islam. Bin Laden believes that if he can get a war started, he can constitute this entity and he'd be running it. He really believes Islam would beat the West. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the West wreaks a holocaust in Muslim lands, that's a billion people with nothing left to lose, even better from Bin Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong about winning; in the end the West would probably overcome - whatever that would mean in such a war; but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden yes, but anyone else?
I don't have a solution. But I do believe that suffering and poverty are the soil in which terrorism grows. Bin Laden and his cohorts want to bait us into creating more such soil, so they and their kind can flourish. We can't let him do that. That's my humble opinion.
A Deeper Wound - Deepak Chopra
As fate would have it, I was leaving New York on a jet flight that took off 45 minutes before the unthinkable happened. By the time we landed in Detroit, chaos had broken out. When I grasped the fact that American security had broken down so tragically, I couldn't respond at first. My wife and son were also in the air on separate flights, one to Los Angeles, one to San Diego. My body went absolutely rigid with fear. All I could think about was their safety, and it took several hours before I found out that their flights had been diverted and both were safe.
Strangely, when the good news came, my body still felt that it had been hit by a truck. Of its own accord it seemed to feel a far greater trauma that reached out to the thousands who would not survive and the tens of thousands who would survive only to live through months and years of hell. And I asked myself, Why didn't I feel this way last week? Why didn't my body go stiff during the bombing of Iraq or Bosnia? Around the world my horror and worry are experienced every day. Mothers weep over horrendous loss, civilians are bombed mercilessly, refugees are ripped from any sense of home or homeland. Why did I not feel their anguish enough to call a halt to it?
As we hear the calls for tightened American security and a fierce military response to terrorism, it is obvious that none of us has any answers. However, we feel compelled to ask some questions. Everything has a cause, so we have to ask, What was the root cause of this evil? We must find out not superficially but at the deepest level. There is no doubt that such evil is alive all around the world and is even celebrated. Does this evil grow from the suffering and anguish felt by people we don't know and therefore ignore? Have they lived in this condition for a long time?
One assumes that whoever did this attack feels implacable hatred for America. Why were we selected to be the focus of suffering around the world? All this hatred and anguish seems to have religion at its basis. Isn't something terribly wrong when jihads and wars develop in the name of God? Isn't God invoked with hatred in Ireland, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, and even among the intolerant sects of America? Can any military response make the slightest difference in the underlying cause? Is there not a deep wound at the heart of humanity?
If there is a deep wound, doesn't it affect everyone? When generations of suffering respond with bombs, suicidal attacks, and biological warfare, who first developed these weapons? Who sells them? Who gave birth to the satanic technologies now being turned against us? If all of us are wounded, will revenge work? Will punishment in any form toward anyone solve the wound or aggravate it? Will an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and limb for a limb, leave us all blind, toothless and crippled?
Tribal warfare has been going on for two thousand years and has now been magnified globally. Can tribal warfare be brought to an end? Is patriotism and nationalism even relevant anymore, or is this another form of tribalism? What are you and I as persons going to do about what is happening? Can we afford to let the deeper wound fester any longer?
Everyone is calling this an attack on America, but is it not a rift in our collective soul? Isn't this an attack on civilization from without that is also from within? When we have secured our safety once more and cared for the wounded, after the period of shock and mourning is over, it will be time for soul searching. I only hope that these questions are confronted with the deepest spiritual intent. None of us will feel safe again behind the shield of military might and stockpiled arsenals. There can be no safety until the root cause is faced. In this moment of shock I don't think anyone of us has the answers. It is imperative that we pray and offer solace and help to each other. But if you and I are having a single thought of violence or hatred against anyone in the world at this moment, we are contributing to the wounding of the world.
A World Out of Touch with Itself
A World Out of Touch With Itself: Where the Violence Comes From by Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, TIKKUN Magazine
"There is never any justification for acts of terror against innocent civilians - it is the quintessential act of dehumanization and not recognizing the sanctity of others, and a visible symbol of a world increasingly irrational and out of control.
It's understandable why many of us, after grieving and consoling the mourners, will feel anger. Demagogues will try to direct that anger at various "target groups" (Muslims are in particular danger, though Yassir Arafat and other Islamic leaders have unequivocally denounced these terrorist acts). The militarists will use this as a moment to call for increased defense spending at the expense of the needy. Right wing may even seek to limit civil liberties, end restraints on spying, and move us toward a militarized society. President Bush will feel pressure to look "decisive" and take "strong" action - phrases that can be manipulated toward irrational responses to an irrational attack.
To counter that potential manipulation of our fear and anger for narrow political ends, a well-meaning media will instead try to narrow our focus solely on the task of finding and punishing the perpetrators. These people, of course, should be caught and punished. But in some ways this exclusive focus allows us to avoid dealing with the underlying issues. When violence becomes so prevalent throughout the planet, it's too easy to simply talk of "deranged minds." We need to ask ourselves, "What is it in the way that we are living, organizing our societies, and treating each other that makes violence seem plausible to so many people?"
We in the spiritual world will see this as a growing global incapacity to recognize the spirit of God in each other - what we call the sanctity of each human being. But even if you reject religious language, you can see that the willingness of people to hurt each other to advance their own interests has become a global problem, and its only the dramatic level of this particular attack which distinguishes it from the violence and insensitivity to each other that is part of our daily lives.
We may tell ourselves that the current violence has "nothing to do" with the way that we've learned to close our ears when told that one out of every three people on this planet does not have enough food, and that one billion are literally starving. We may reassure ourselves that the hoarding of the world's resources by the richest society in world history, and our frantic attempts to accelerate globalization with its attendant inequalities of wealth, has nothing to do with the resentment that others feel toward us. We may tell ourselves that the suffering of refugees and the oppressed have nothing to do with us - that that's a different story that is going on somewhere else. But we live in one world, increasingly interconnected with everyone, and the forces that lead people to feel outrage, anger and desperation eventually impact on our own daily lives.
The same sense of disconnection to the plight of others operates in the minds of many of these terrorists. Raise children in circumstances where no one is there to take care of them, or where they must live by begging or selling their bodies in prostitution, put them in refugee camps and tell them that that they have "no right of return" to their homes, treat them as though they are less valuable and deserving of respect because they are part of some despised national or ethnic group, surround them with a media that extols the rich and makes everyone who is not economically successful and physically trim and conventionally "beautiful" feel bad about themselves, offer them jobs whose sole goal is to enrich the "bottom line" of someone else, and teach them that "looking out for number one" is the only thing anyone "really" cares about and that anyone who believes in love and social justice is merely a naïve idealist who is destined to always remain powerless, and you will produce a world-wide population of people feeling depressed, angry, and in various ways dysfunctional.
Luckily most people don't act out in violent ways - they tend to act out more against themselves, drowning themselves in alcohol or drugs or personal despair. Others turn toward fundamentalist religions or ultra-nationalist extremism. Still others find themselves acting out against people that they love, acting angry or hurtful toward children or relationship partners.
Most Americans will feel puzzled by any reference to this "larger picture." It seems baffling to imagine that somehow we are part of a world system which is slowly destroying the life support system of the planet, and quickly transferring the wealth of the world into our own pockets.
We don't feel personally responsible when an American corporation runs a sweat shop in the Philippines or crushes efforts of workers to organize in Singapore. We don't see ourselves implicated when the U.S. refuses to consider the plight of Palestinian refugees or uses the excuse of fighting drugs to support repression in Colombia or other parts of Central America. We don't even see the symbolism when terrorists attack America's military center and our trade center - we talk of them as buildings, though others see them as centers of the forces that are causing the world so much pain. We have narrowed our own attention to "getting through" or "doing well" in our own personal lives, and who has time to focus on all the rest of this? Most of us are leading perfectly reasonable lives within the options that we have available to us - so why should others be angry at us, much less strike out against us? And the truth is, our anger is also understandable: the striking out by others in acts of terror against us is just as irrational as the world-system that it seeks to confront.
When people have learned to treat each other as means to our own ends, to not feel the pain of those who are suffering, we end up creating a world in which these kinds of terrible acts of violence become more common. And as we've learned from the current phase of the Israel-Palestinian struggle, responding to terror with more violence, rather than asking ourselves what we could do to change the conditions that generated it in the first place, will only ensure more violence in the future.
This is a world out of touch with itself, filled with people who have forgotten how to recognize and respond to the sacred in each other because we are so used to looking at others from the standpoint of what they can do for us, how we can use them toward our own ends.
We should pray for the victims and the families of those who have been hurt or murdered in these crazy acts. We should also pray that America does not return to "business as usual," but rather turns to a period of reflection, coming back into touch with our common humanity, asking ourselves how our institutions can best embody our highest values. We may need a global day of atonement and repentance dedicated to finding a way to turn the direction of our society at every level, a return to the notion that every human life is sacred, that "the bottom line" should be the creation of a world of love and caring, and that the best way to prevent these kinds of acts is not to turn ourselves into a police state, but turn ourselves into a society in which social justice, love, and compassion are so prevalent that violence becomes only a distant memory.
(Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of TIKKUN Magazine and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in San Francisco. He is the author of Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul and most recently (Sept 2001) editor: Best Contemporary Jewish Writing. For more info about TIKKUN: www.Tikkun.org To subscribe: $29 in the US, $43 abroad: send check or credit card info to TIKKUN, 2107 Van Ness Ave, Suite 302, S.F. Ca 94109 or call 415 575 1200 And please also join our email list by emailing to the following address: TikkunMagazine-subscribe@Yahoogroups.com)
From a Mother whose Daughter was on her Way Back to College
I will miss my baby. As an American, however, I am absolutely unwilling for her death to go unanswered. This was a young, vibrant woman who loved this country more than anyone knew. She loved her freedom. She was fiercely independent; a leader. She was the future of this country. So here's my stand. Let this passing be the start of a new conversation, that has this world work for everyone. Let us start a new conversation that is all-inclusive, that leaves no one out. Let us start a conversation that is tolerant of all people's beliefs, that includes everyone's God, that includes everyone of color, and most of all, that provides a future for all mankind to live in harmony and respect. My daughter made a difference everywhere she went. Let this then be our call: To live our lives in such a way that makes the biggest difference possible in the lives or our fellow man, with no one left out. No one! Let her light shine brightly for all people for all time!
(If this woman can take this stand, I have hope that the rest of us can too.)
Amazing Times from Ejaye, England
This is truly an amazing time. Amazing in that it really brings the reality home, that no one can control events, no one can know the future no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves. It gives everything a sense of susceptibility of dispensability. The truth that the world as we know it could disappear tomorrow fills me with a sense of enjoying the here, the now, to be at peace in the moment. This is not a time for mindless retribution driven by fear and hatred, it is a time of change. A time to acknowledge our fears and take the responsibility, to react in a different way. It is a great opportunity for everyone to unite, take responsibility for the parts we have ALL played as human beings in making the world what it is, and letting it go (let he who is without sin, and all that). This whole situation, the drama, the intensity, the pain, the sadness, all great opportunities for people to ask why, not to blame, but acknowledge each others pain.
Acknowledge that pain is pain and no one's pain is greater of lesser than anyone else's, but that we all suffer and THAT IS WHY we are all locked in this defensiveness. This great opportunity we now all have to share our pain. To empathize with one another to heal together. Since these devastating events took place I have felt such a deep sense of love within myself, a deepness that I have never felt before. This realization that I don't want to live my life with anger and hatred inside of me. The realization of the possibility that the world may end tomorrow has in a way given me a sense of relief. The relief being that the realization is that we truly only have the moment, and that I have been able to step into the moment without the illusion of the future and everything that goes with it.
That nothing else matters. That outside the world may change but inside I remain the same. I'll never forget once I was sitting, this was some 8 years ago. I was sat with a group of friends and we were putting the world to rights. Accusing, blaming, hanging onto our conditioned beliefs, I'm sure you know what I mean. One of my friends had a little girl; a little 3 year old called Lola. She sat amidst this very heated conversation playing with some toys, apparently oblivious to our rantings. The conversation got more and more intense, emotions got higher then suddenly she stood up in the middle of the room and said in such clear, calm voice "you know you only hurt if you want to" then sat down and continued playing with her toys. I'll never forget the moment, the whole room fell silent, for what seemed like ages.
In that moment, in those words, immense healing took place. A catalyst, a moment which stops you dead in your tracks, where your mind disappears, where everything disappears and for a moment you are at the center of your being. A moment where truth dissolves the illusion, shatters every belief, every attachment, every concept, strips you naked as you stand within yourself. The events of Tuesday gave millions that tiny window when belief was suspended and there was silence within, even if it was just for a split second the seed was experienced. These times of intense emotion, of intense drama, are such times to let go of our patterns of behavior, release ourselves from the cycles of pain and blame.
The essence of every situation, the lesson of each situation is the same, the same operate within the microcosm and the macrocosm, only the scale is different. Although what has happened in recent events is truly sad for the human race, we must take this opportunity, this responsibility to heal ourselves, to use this catalyst to propel ourselves forward into a time of peace, compassion and understanding within our world. TO BEGIN TO GROW THE SEED. Let us break the chains that bind us to anger and despair and open our hearts and breathe in LIFE. Let us rejoice in our existence, see the beauty in it and stop resenting it. We have experienced and acknowledged our power of destruction, our ability to destroy, now let us experience and embrace the beautiful power of creation and open to the divine within. My thanks for letting me share this with you with an open heart. May all your hearts be open to the joy of life.
Sat Nam Ejaye
Meditation on the Truth of Unity
There are so many emotions in the air now. It is easy to react, be angry, feel sad. Remember that we can always inhale deeply and chant Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat Nam.
3 times, 5 times, 1-11 minutes, OR as many times or minutes needed.
Call upon the Truth, identify with it, feel it, vibrate in every cell.
You can chant this with the emotion that you are feeling at the moment.
The Truth which is the unity of all beings will prevail.
This is a great chance to help bring this consciousness to the ourselves and the Planet.
Above all, may I be a woman/man of peace that others may experience peace in my presence.
LOVE TO ALL, LIGHT TO ALL, PEACE TO ALL - Guru Rattana
References and Footnotes
1. The Moon takes about two and a half days to cross one Sign of the Zodiac. Its void-of-course period is the period of time from the moment the Moon makes the last contact with any planet in the current sign, until it enters the next one. This period can be very short, only a few minutes, but it can also sometimes be as long as two days.
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