This is a slightly different take on 9/11 because it’s an offer. An offer for you to give up something important to you. An offer to undertake a shift in your life.
I was teaching in D.C. on 9/11–that briliantly beautiful blue day that changed all our lives. I heard the plane hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. We all have memories of where we were on that day, and how we felt, how impossible it was to grasp the death of 3,000 who had been alive minutes before.
We cannot make their fear of death become our fear of life.
Nine years later, the biggest tragedy is the fear that started on that day, and the hate that followed it. We are a different nation. We are angry for the 2,996 people killed in America on that day, but does our sorrow extend to the 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed on the war that followed? Or the 4,413 American soldiers who have died so far in that war? Or the 5,000 coalition soldiers? My tears are for all the spouses, relatives, children left behind to live out their lives with loss.
The easy answer is hate. Burn the Quran, ban mosques. Those are fear reactions. I’m asking you to do something huge. Something only you can do, something that may be the hardest thing you have done in your life. I’m asking you to put down your fear of the Other, your hatred of the Unknown. I’m asking you to give up any belief that asks you to hate and succumb to your fears and grown anger in the name of a flag, a religion, or competition, or greed.
I’m asking you to embrace something harder: creativity. Yes, the creativity of music and art and literature and dance. But creativity in a bigger sense–the ability you have to create thoughts and deeds bigger than fear and hate. Take on the creative rebuilding of your heart, the willingness to give of yourself to help others. Start small, with yourself. Branch out to others that are your color, your beliefs, your politics. Support your local bank or credit union. Support your neighbor who has a small business. A local farmer’s market. And then comes the hard part. Begin to create an acceptance of people not like you. The Other. Them. People who pray in strange languages. People who wear funny clothes. People who vote differently, maybe even people who don’t like you.
Creativity has no religion, no bias, no hatred. Creative forces shape our culture. Make your contribution in a way that represents your best, not your fear. A small step is the beginning. I believe in Albert Einstein’s certainty that “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”