Monday, September 11, 2017

Rising from the Ashes

"Thorns and Blossoms"
- in my meditation garden -

Anyone who is old enough to remember what was happening in their lives sixteen years ago will most likely have fairly clear memory of exactly where they were on the morning of September 11, 2001.  I remember the fateful events of “9/11” so vividly that it is as if it all happened yesterday.

I was in an early-morning meeting in my office when my administrative assistant knocked on the door and said, “You had better come out here and see what’s happening.” We all gathered in front of a TV set and watched in horror as the events of that day unfolded - planes flying into the twin towers as they collapsed into a heap of rubble, so much chaos, death, pain and unimaginable suffering. We sat glued to that TV set all day long and as the hours of the day passed by, I felt that we were all being drained of energy and life. By the end of the day, there was nothing left but ashes and all hope seemed to be gone.

That evening we held a community-wide vigil service in our parish church. Even without any prior notice the church was packed, overflowing with people from the throughout the entire neighborhood, all of us feeling a deep need to try and find some meaning in the senselessness of all that had transpired.  We had all gathered together to somehow fill the empty void that that had been left by the horrible events of that day.

Then something happened that changed it all for me.

As we sat in a candlelit church holding one another’s hands, though our tears we sang the words of the well-known hymn, “We Shall Overcome,” and a burst of light suddenly pierced through my darkness. It was as if the “Phoenix” was rising up from the ashes and we were all being lifted up. That night, “deep in my heart” I knew that hope was still alive and that the light of Love could never be extinguished even in the face of such great hate and so much death.

The poet Emily Dickenson once wrote:

Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all

After the events of 9/11 a new age of global terror seemed to be unleashed upon this country and the world. A war was waged, hateful retribution was hurled against those did us wrong and equal acts of vengeance were offered in return. To this very day, the ugly face of hatred stalks our city streets, we have become a nation and a world divided against one another, riddled by political unrest, torn apart by culture wars and racism.

I must admit that, every once in a while, I give into a sense of despair over the unrest so prevalent in today’s society. In the darkness of all the chaos I sometimes feel drained of life and energy - devoid of hope. But then I call to mind that one moment in a darkened church on the night when the twin towers were reduced to rubble and to ashes and from the ashes, hope rises up. God abides, we have one another, and in the end Love will will the day.

On this 16th anniversary of 9/11, the immortal words of Martin Luther King Jr. continue to echo, filling up all those dark and empty places in the world, speaking new life to all who sit in the ashes of life:

But even in the midst of chaos.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love
will have the final word.

Only in the darkness can you see the stars.