a 14th anniversary reflection

Today, 9/11, many are the official commemorations and personal observances.

I value the purpose, the power of remembrance to draw us together in solidarity. And therein, I think, is an inherent problem with remembrance. In the renewal of our unity, particularly in response to tragedy, we may be tempted to overlook an essential historical and ethical question: What have we learned? After 14 years, I pray something about forgiveness.

Forgiving. Not forgetting. For who can erase the memory of a grievous wrong? Rather, forgiving as commemoration’s higher art – seeing clearly the wrong and, in enlightened self-interest (knowing the corrosive power of resentment), choosing to forsake the natural human desire for vengeance and the generational nurturance of prejudice.

Remembering the offense and our anguish clarifies for me the necessity of forgiveness and makes forgiveness, when offered, no feeble sentimentality, but a bold deed of mercy toward others and a true act of kindness to ourselves.

Still, forgiveness is easy to say, harder to do, and, at times, impossible. But today, I pray, not unthinkable. For our soul’s health as individuals, a nation, a world is at stake.

Today, as my personal existential and spiritual work, I contemplate repenting and forgiving my excesses. At one extreme, my human susceptibility to the blinding fear and burning anger that demonizes “the other.” At another extreme, the flaccid romanticism that idealizes a universal humanity, encouraging me to ignore the undeniable cultural, ethnic and racial, and religious differences that divide us.

In repenting and forgiving myself, I, with wide-eyed honesty, recognize anew that ours is a dangerous world and I, with a revived heart of hope, will continue to strive to understand “the other” – always seeking to be alert to every opportunity, with open eyes and an open heart, to unfold my arms and unclench my fists and open my hands to all.

One thought on “a 14th anniversary reflection

  1. Thanks for this most needed reflection Paul. I participated this morning in the moment of silence at National Airport. Just seconds before the loudspeaker announced the moment of silence there was the usual pandemonium occurring… All ethnicities of People rushing back and forth with all types of luggage, or standing in line waiting or talking on phone or working on computers. But at the moment of the requested silence, you could hear a pin drop. I felt like for that moment, none of us were the “other”. We were all one with our thoughts and prayers and remembrances…. It was beautiful. Then it was over and we all went back to the airport hustle and bustle. I wish it had been longer so we could have asked ourselves we are on the path to forgiveness that you so eloquently discussed. I believe I’ve forgiven, but will never ever forget.


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