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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In a funk

I haven't been writing much, recently, as I've been in a bit of a funk. My life is blessed, but Flame-Haired Angel is away, and work is mentally and emotionally exhausting.

The recent September 11 memorializing of the New York conflagration five years earlier also left me feeling empty. It wasn't so much sadness at the memory of what happened -- I'm still angry and sad about it, but most of the fuel of real anguish is spent -- as a sense of tragedy following tragedy: that tragic events have been tragically misappropriated, extending the suffering to thousands of others, most needlessly.

Worse than needlessly. Unjustifiably. Immorally.

Tragedy begot tragedy. The first was at their hands, but why did the next have to be at ours?

I feel as though everything I've ever had faith in, at the core of the most enduring democracy, has been cheaply sold at auction in return for little more than lashing out at the night. I blame the Bush administration and a rubber-stamp Congress, of course, but my fellow citizens and the press have been complicit, too.

Because of feeling this way, I ducked most of the 9/11 memorializing. But a few pieces of remembrance touched me. They weren't about the victims so much. I read a lot more, in fact, about the places where we, all of us who live uncomfortably on, have come to since then. In sum, we seem reflective about something like the stunting of our own spirits. Not triumphant. Almost embarrassed at how little we've moved on.

Of the pieces that got through my armor and moved me, one was a letter from my friend Margot. She wrote to all the same people to whom she had written five years previous. She talked about the blessings in our lives since, but also about the betrayal of her prayer, then, that our leaders would seek and receive wise counsel.

Another was a short piece by a mathemetician whose articulate analysis of life beyond numbers I have referenced a few times, here, before: John Allen Paulos. The piece is called "A Short Numerically-Flavored Rumination on 9/11/01". It was enough that he lightened my mood with the simple phrase "numerological excrescences".

The most powerfully written thing I read -- the writing itself touched me to my core -- was a piece by Justin E H Smith: "The Self and September 11". It's not a very promising title, I know, but trust me and click the link when you've got a few moments to inhale deeply. Someday, perhaps if I'm very good, I'll write so well.

Keith Olbermann continued to rattle his cage with his new-found Murrow chops. That was appreciated. But it did sound a little tinnier in my ear than it might have on any other night. I love what Keith is doing, allowing us to see what Ed Murrow did, self-consciously "bringing it" to our own time, to our issues, to our complacent sense of right and wrong, and "bringing it" to this President who so desperately needs it brought. But I was, frankly, less receptive to polemic and well-deserved public scolding than usual. There was already enough of that, though less elegantly composed, clanging in my head and thudding just slightly further south.

The best memorial, of all, I thought, was a simple thing done by two of my favorite bloggers. They just posted up an old video clip. It wasn't even from Sept 11, but from a few days later. It was Jon Stewart's Daily Show: the first he did after 9/11. I can't imagine what that must have been like: to restart a comedy show -- a current affairs comedy show -- broadcasting from New York, while the site still smoldered. Below, at the end of this post, you can see how he handled it.

Something else you'll see, indirectly, in that clip, is why my soul hurts. The possibility of light and hope emerged from that tragedy. We could have made something out of those innocents' deaths that would have made them proud of us. Instead, we turned their victimhood into a fiery sword of false righteousness, swinging furiously in fear, justifing torture, imprisoning without charge, killing still more innocent people, and stripping freedoms from our own citizens.

The only fitting memorial to those who died is a nation that is free. A nation that is just. A nation that doesn't cower in fear. A nation that holds itself above any standard that guides killers of innocents.

That is what we need as a memorial to them. Not a new building. Not another television special. Not another "War on Terror" speech. What we need is to be the best possible version of ourselves, both as human beings and as a nation.

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The first Daily Show to air after September 11, 2001:

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