On this somber morning in the stillness of my private Zen garden, I opened my arms to the deep blue sky and breathed in abundant life. Stretching and sensing my lungs expand, I knew I was alive.
And I don’t need a Zen master to tell me I’m enlightened.
I smell and taste and feel and see and hear. My heart beats when I’m asleep or unconscious. The magic of countless universes pulses through every cell in my body. I am the sea, the sky, the earth and beyond.
I imagine that Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed would understand.
If given the chance, I wonder if any of them would fly a jet plane into a skyscraper.
I don’t know.
I do know, however, that their followers day after day for thousands of years have erupted in the wanton violence that kills and kills and kills some more. That’s our human dilemma, of course. Will we ever stop destroying each other in their names and the names of other supermen whose message is embraced by good and bad people, alike?
We will only stop the murder when we are united, like the bumper stickers read in the frenzied American aftermath of 911. And that likely means never.
But more people should try to disarm the destruction and train the world’s troops of young people to practice non-violence as a courageous priority that is so very necessary for evolution of the species as well as for the cultivation of ideas that can free the population of any nation no matter how large or small.
That’s my personal dream and commitment on this 11th anniversary of the 2001 attack on America. I’ve been trying my best to work for peace ever since that first plane slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center and erupted in flames that will likely never be extinguished.
I was meditating that morning, sitting in what Buddhist practitioners call zazen, the conscious seated posture of stillness and breath that helps us experience the life that is so very easy to take for granted.
I will sit this morning as well.
For me, thankfully, breathing has not changed for the worse. If anything, my blessed breath is as strong if not stronger than it was that fateful day of death and destruction and I am at peace with myself.
That might be part of the problem. If you go to war with yourself you might be more willing to go to war with others. Self-defense is understandable, yet the emotional reaction that welcomes any response and calls it self-defense can be risky, reckless and fatal.
More innocent, decent people – ours and theirs - died needlessly in the aftermath of 911.
America blamed Iraq and went to war even though we now know that Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks.
America’s ally Saudi Arabia and its madmen had everything to do with the attacks. They were the attacks. But American officials have yet to respond appropriately to them because we need their jet-setting royalty to be our best oily friends in the world.
Our soldiers and veterans still suffer and die, sometimes penniless. Their princes laugh all the way to the World Bank. And too many shallow Americans scream their USAUSAUSA chants to packed football stadiums and cult-like political arenas as an egotistical war cry for tomorrow.
But we are not united. We are not even close. I am convinced that most Americans don’t even like each other. Loving thy neighbor has more in common with suburban adultery than with the sweet purpose of goodness.
If you paused for a moment of silence this morning, I suggest that you pause for another one tomorrow.
Feel your breath. Slow your life. Appreciate the goodness and work to share. Increase your awareness. Pay attention.
With those simple practices, you will honor the dead and help the living more than any engraved stone memorial can ever do.
Truly living the legacy of those who died on 911 and in related subsequent deaths takes work. But that hard work pays off. That measure of the American Dream does not show up in your tax refund or in your stock market portfolio if you have one. That dividend pays off in conscience and intellect, in community and equality, in liberty and justice for all.
Caring will help us close the gap that prevents us from being united.
Love, not war, is the best tribute to the 911 dead we can muster.