Elegy for Our Common Identities

September 11, 2021

Today was the 20 year anniversary of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and Pentagon in Washington, DC.  I, and many other Americans, watched and listened to the event that took place at the 9-11 memorial at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. For several hours, pairs of people took turns to read the names of every person who was killed by the terrorist attack.

The people who read the names of the dead were all relatives of someone who died. Two by two, they stood somberly and read name after name, in alphabetical order.

Nearly 3,000 people died as a result of that fateful and tragic day. As the names of each one were read, I listened. Musicians played lovely, quiet chamber music to accompany the readings. Many emotions washed over me during the course of the memorial service.  Sorrow was the keynote underlying the entire service. One by one, the readers honored the one they had personally lost. Patterns quickly emerged:  father, brother, cousin, mother, sister, daughter, son. People of all ages honored their loved one, including many children and youth who never had the opportunity to know the one who died personally. And yet, each one spoke similar words of knowing them through the stories, pictures, and family ties they had for the past twenty years. Most of the readers remarked that they wished their beloved could have been alive to see their families grow and mark the milestones of their common lives—graduations, births, marriages, and other significant moments. Some readers choked up and cried as they read their memorial, feeling the loss as acutely as if time stood still. Many spoke of the pain they still felt as they remembered their beloved one every single day. And many ended with the words, we will meet again one day.

Corey Kilgannon for The New York Times

The common threads that were repeated over and over during the course of the four hour ceremony became apparent and important to recognize. A few of these threads include:

The names of the dead read as a reminder of who lives in America. The ancestors of these people came from all parts of the world, and yet they were all together in New York on that fateful day. All races, religions, creeds, and belief systems were represented in those who died.

Everyone who died had someone (or many) who cared about them, and misses them very much to this day. And, the important point that each person was simply a human, living their ordinary life on a clear September morning, when something unforeseeable and utterly horrific happened to them that was completely beyond their control.

This blog post is not the place to discuss the implications of everything that came after 9-11-2001, or of how the world changed forever because of that day. This post is simply my way to honor and remember, along with many others, those whose lives were taken from those whom they loved.

During the livestream, they showed the memorial itself. It is a brilliant representation of the eternal nature of life, death and spirit. A deeply built square fountain and pool of water that continually recycles. Around the perimeter are all the names of those who died carved into the stone rim. There were flowers and flags placed next to everyone’s name. The symbolism is profound as a fitting memorial to the human spirit which can never die, regardless of the destruction of the physical body.

Although today’s memorial service was specifically for the ones who died on 9-11-2001, I also sensed the larger memorial to all of those who have left us through no fault of their own. The pandemic has taken many millions of lives and left millions more behind to grieve. In a real sense, this time on Earth seems to be one of intense grieving and loss. There is a line in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Christian-Judeo bible that states, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die … A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”  This is a time to mourn, to remember all that has happened, and to honor it for the lessons we have learned as the whole of humanity.

The Value of Small Gestures

 

student_pajamas_virtual learning
This is how many kids are doing online learning during Covid days.

The end of this most unusual school year is finally upon us. Today was my last day of online tutoring . For the past five weeks I worked with students who bravely engaged with me through computer screens   Navigating through all this involved both huge challenges and delights. Along with hundreds of thousands of teachers and students, I learned two basic facts this spring: 1) we can teach and learn virtually–even with young children it is possible; and 2) it’s not nearly as much fun or satisfying to do school through computer screens (although it is nice to wear pajamas to school every day).

Society en masse experiencing shelter-at-home and safer-at-home orders has forced us to reconcile the lifestyle we all took for granted with a new way of living—apart physically, yet finding the most creative and innovative ways to still be together and connect human to human. We’ve had to be flexible and adaptable on the fly, and on all levels—mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional. In my case, the emotional level has felt most extreme. Days and nights have been wide emotional pendulums, from feeling steady, happy, and even joyful at moments, to later in the day dipping down into anxiety, fear, and loneliness. We’re undergoing a grand human experiment of learning resilience in the face of adversity, and of experiencing grace under unprecedented pressure.

Through online tutoring, I observed that the kids adapted to the lockdown situation with surprising agility and often much less drama than many adults in the room. The biggest hardship for children, I’d guess, is their highly restricted social time with friends and limited opportunities for physical exercise. Teaching academic subjects is challenging enough through a screen; how PE teachers manage it is nearly incomprehensible.

Saying goodbye to my students, who are all between 7 and 9 years old, was an internal process that took many days. I realized anew how hard it is to say goodbye to people I grew fond of, and all the more so because of their innocence and vulnerability. The biggest learning for me during the past six months is that a caring adult can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Small gestures matter greatly—the few minutes that you give to really listen to a child so they can express what’s in their mind and heart will give them self confidence and trust in you.

This spring has shown many of us the value of small gestures. It has shone a spotlight on people that many of us casually take for granted—now deemed essential to the running of society. I believe that teachers, tutors, paraprofessionals, and school staff members are included in the group of essential workers for society. Although some parents and family members may disagree, I would argue that a child’s school community is a critically important part of their life, and what they experience within their school will either enhance their self-worth, intellectual, emotional, and social capacities, or do the opposite. Society as a whole must continue to support their local public education system, and not let corporate money interests dictate how the system is run.

As a last gift, I shared this music video with my students today. It’s an old song, and still sounds so good. I hope it brings a smile and few dance steps to your body, mind, heart, and soul.

 

 

The light of love within us

 

Be_the-Light
image via KatieDaisy

 

“We need to resonate with another collective field within us, one that is much deeper than fear – a field that is still hidden at the moment. It’s the collective field of trust, the matrix of life, which Dieter Duhm refers to as the “sacred matrix.” For, despite all the suffering, all the horrors of the past and all the threats, life is still oriented towards joy, curiosity and survival. There is a core within us that knows this. This core is called trust.”  –Leila Dregger, The Esperanza Project

Today I tidied up my gmail inbox. Mail from many of the organizations that I am subscribed to showed me how suddenly life on Earth has changed. In the space of a couple months (and in America just about 4 hyper-real weeks), we’ve gone from looking at the distant storm clouds with some worry, to standing, sitting or lying directly under the mother of all storms. We are collectively watching (and for those who are ill, directly experiencing) the tempest as it rains down upon us. Apocalyptic and prophetic in proportions, the coronavirus and its fallout is affecting everyone on Earth, and we will be forever changed as a result of this time.

By now, many authors have written about this crisis from a myriad of perspectives. Depending on one’s ideological, moral, religious and political perspectives, this pandemic can be seen as the end of the world, or a great personal tragedy of health, wealth and all things good and pleasant. For others, it is being hailed as the Great Wake-Up Call for humanity; The Moment we’ve been waiting for as humanity pushes the reset button on the way we’ve been living and methodically destroying our planet. Looked at from this prism lens takes the ability to step way back from your own, personal life view, and instead see the big picture of Earth and humanity’s evolution as a species. I’d like to suggest that this largest perspective, although difficult to wrap one’s head around, is the most beneficial view to take as we move forward.

Yet, I humbly acknowledge it is easier said than done. Getting above the fear, anxiety and even hysteria of this current moment of our evolution is a Herculean task. I am personally beset with doubts and fears, as well as moments of despair as I hear the relentless newstream of mortality rates and untold suffering. The bottom line seems to be: there is literally no way out of this, except to walk nobly through every moment of human suffering that we are collectively experiencing with our heads held high; our faith in ourselves and in our divinity as strong as it has ever been.

Dear Readers, I imagine each of you are going through your own version of questioning, worrying, anxiety, fear and pain during this extreme period of coronavirus. I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and feelings about it. I’d like to remind you again that for this we were born—it is for the express purpose of raising up the collective consciousness of humanity that we have come to Earth in this age. Many souls are now leaving the planet, and many more are coming to reinforce and bring the new age of Gaia into manifestation. It is not incorrect to embrace this moment as a Great Purge of old energy, an enormous clearing of darkness, power and control programs that have resided within humanity for countless eons of time. The excellent news is that we are finally at the tipping point, the moment when we collectively decide Enough! We are done with grossly unfair living conditions for the vast majority of society across the planet. We will no longer stand for a tiny percentage of humans hoarding nearly all the wealth and power of Earth’s treasures for their own selfish ends. We, The People of Earth/Gaia, are declaring, throughout all lands, that this crisis moment when many are sickened and some are dying, is heralding in The Time of Enlightenment for eons to come. From this horrific place of pain and suffering, we actually have the amazing opportunity to change our entire planet’s operating system in earnest. The lessons inherent in the pandemic are here for all to plainly embrace. People must be cared for by society as a whole. We can no longer look away and pretend things are okay when they are so clearly broken. We are broken at the bottom, and from this place of brokenness we can build a human society that actually works for everyone. We have all the tools and ingenuity we need to do it. Up until now, we have sorely lacked the political will. But the coronavirus, which is nothing more than a packet of RNA wrapped up in a film of fat so small it is invisible to the human eye, is crowning us with a vast opportunity for a new operating system for us all.

Don’t let cynicism and denial prevent you from dreaming into this vision. In these weeks and months, people everywhere are awakening and seeing (perhaps for the first time in their lives) that this dream for an equitable, clean, and healthy world is not only possible, but that we can and must make it become real. Look how quickly everything changed in the world during the past two months!  WE DON’T HAVE TO RETURN TO BUSINESS-AS-USUAL EVER AGAIN. This pandemic is showing us there is a more beautiful world within our reach. A world based on the principles of love, compassion and fairness. Let us not lose the momentum for real, lasting change.  I leave you with a prayer I heard today,

Fear is not real. I rest in the light of Divine Love,

and that is the only Truth I embrace.

May the Light of Love rise up within My Heart,

and the Hearts of All Humanity.