Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Do You See What I See?

Do You See What I See? Do you hear what I hear?

Long time coming? Or was I just lacking in patience?

September 11, 2001

It was shocking, horrifying, devestating that terrorists could breach our national borders and kill U.S. citizens in cold blood on American soil.

I could not SEE what you saw that day. I was blind at the time. (Now I am blind no more. I wish the same for you, spiritually as well as physically.)

But then mostly all I could do was listen to hear of what you saw; on televised newscasts in the newspapers, magazines and periodicals. Through a haze like two sheets of waxed papers I sensed images and heard the anguish.

I was a part of this world and yet not quite.

Nonetheless, we all still remember and read and talk about it.

We always will.

We were changed by what happened. Yet not quite enough – which is one of my main points here.

In the aftermath we came together in shock and fear. We gathered in churches and synagogues wherever two or more could meet to talk and pray. We sought comfort in one another and that which was somewhere beyond. That which we could not quite see, but longed to feel; peace and comfort and meaning in that which seemed to have no meaning at all.

After a time, too little time, however, most returned to business as usual.

As if there could ever again be “usual.”

What I saw in 9/11 because I could not see what you saw -- of the bloody aftermath was only that which I could see with my heart. And the images I sensed that went beyond the physical into the spiritual dimension.

For me the time brought close the words of  Helen Keller --
The spiritual world offers no difficulty to one who is deaf and blind. Nearly everything in the natural world is as vague, as remote from my senses, as spiritual things seem to the minds of most people.
This very much reflects how I “saw” 9/11.

For me there was little difference between the physical world and the spiritual. So I saw what you saw as best I could; the spiritual taking dominance as the physical was so very vague for me.

Since that day, 9/11, and the weeks and months after I came to realize that I was sometimes able to hold onto my spiritual musings more easily than most.

After all I had no meaningful work at the time to distract my attentions – and – no lingering, terrifying and bloody graphic images to haunt me. Soon after that day I created a brief study of attitudes and such to explore with the limited number of people I had access to in those blind days after 9/11.

Not able to drive and living, as I still do, up in the mountains, I found comfort for myself and created it for some by drawing those few into storytelling about what 9/11 meant for us all.

Not realizing, at the time, that I would come to find storytelling to be a path to healing and peace, personally and collectively; a recognition that would come, a few years later, when I had, after eight years, recovered my eyesight and had begun to heal from the trauma the loss brought about.

Storytelling would come to play a central role in my life after blindness, continuing to this day.

Now as the vista of 2015 looms ahead, I am recalling that brief storytelling time following 9/11, yearning for more of the same; seeking comfort with one another. 

And I am seeing something that I hope you too are seeing. Many are beginning to catch on that telling our stories is a viable first step to creating community healing activities; a means to build bridges of understanding that bring comfort as we discover more and more about one another while we go about working together to find solutions to our shared problems. 

That early study presaged what my latest study, the Possible Human, Possible Society Study, has revealed, sometimes inspiring -- through stories -- and – sometimes disappointingly in contradictory actions that demonstrate, too frequently, what our minds would likely choose to dismiss –

We are a nation of people who, typically, only take time to lean into one another  opportunistically. When tragedy erupts or when doing so serves some other self-centered agenda. 

Thus we neglect doing that which would serve the higher good of all for one, one for all; leaning in to one another with constancy to build bridges of unity and peace; an antidote to the poison of polarization.

For example, individuals and groups have come together in protests around upsets involving police violence against African American men.  Several years back an equal or greater number took up the call that became Occupy Wall Street, pushing these protesters in our faces on a daily basis.

Did this make a difference for all its noise? Did our country improve for it? I wonder. Now you barely hear a word spoken of it. Is this what Ferguson and NYC will also accomplish when time has passed?

Protest can be a good thing, boldly affirming our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. Protest also can turn violent as we are seeing. Even the simmering can be a precursor to treachery and tragedy.

Today I am standing on the side of a mountain where I live, overlooking the historic town of Harpers Ferry. My backyard backs up on sites, once sheltering civil war soldiers from both the Confederacy and Union.

It is almost an effortless endeavor up here to immerse oneself in the history of that era. It is with relative ease, correspondingly, with scenes of bloodshed surrounding us on every side, to call up those long ago voices of death and our nation divided; the cries of young men, dying for freedom.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It never did. War, even "civil" war is not an answer such as we have in congress these days, if genuinely civilized men and women will work together.

So let us come together as the New Year of 2015 makes its way in and seek personal and collective growth as an ever more truly civilized humanity, striving to take our evolving another level up.

New Horizons will do its part with an emphasis on guiding whoever will join us to tell our stories and listen to one another with our hearts on our path to healing. Our forthcoming Coffee House Conversations of Race Relations and our Possible Human, Possible Society Study expanded into a Campus Life track are two of our efforts in this direction.

Do You See What I See? The unity and peace!

Do you hear what I hear? The unity and peace!

We can do this, more and more in 2015!

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