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Thursday, May 05, 2011

My response to the killing of Osama bin Laden

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What color is prayer?

In December we saw an installation by visual artist Jitish Kallat at The Art Institute of Chicago called Public Notice 3. (The Art Institute's page about it is here.)

In thousands of LED lights, Kallat spells out words on the risers of the stairs in the Woman's Board Grand Staircase — an open, radiant space. The brightly lit words were intentionally designed in the five colors of the United States Department of Homeland Security alert system. At first, seeing the neon-like letters mounted on the Beaux-Arts stairs felt jarring. The Art Institute is my favorite museum, and the multi-directional staircase under a skylight has always been a magnetic center of the million-square-foot building where I love to sit and watch people, listening to the echo of voices and footsteps. Once I learned the content of the words illuminating the risers, I read up and down and watched people climb, descend, sit, stand, and snap pictures. We were surrounded by words like stock exchange tickers (though not in motion, and not driven by commerce).

Kallat said,  "Treating the museum’s Grand Staircase almost like a notepad, the 118 step-risers receive the refracted text of the speech. I see Public Notice 3 as an experiential and contemplative transit space; the text of the speech is doubled at the two entry points on the lower levels of the staircase and quadrupled at the four exit points at the top, multiplying like a visual echo."


more photos here

What speech? The words Kallat mounted on the stairs were spoken by Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda to 7,000 delegates more than 100 years ago, in the first attempt to address religious tolerance worldwide: the First World Parliament of Religions, held in conjunction with the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. (Detailed synopsis of the Parliament at Boston University's Encyclopedia of Western Theology's site here.) This art installation was opened last year on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack, September 11, 2010. Part of what captured Jitish Kallat's imagination was the fact that the gathering of delegates of different faiths in 1893 in the museum's Fullerton Hall happened also to be on September 11 that year. Below is Vivekananda's speech, words that light the steps of the grand staircase like prayers rising and falling, adjacent to the hall where he addressed the hopeful delegates. (The building of the Art Institute was built for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair — officially the World's Fair: Columbian Exposition — with the agreement that it would house the Art Institute thereafter).

When you get to the last sentence of his speech, what do you feel?



Swami Vivekananda's speech to the First World Parliament of Religions, September 11, 1893 in the Art Institute of Chicago's Fullerton Hall:

Sisters and Brothers of America,

It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.

My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: "As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me." Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

After reading this speech, I feel as I did when I woke up early Monday morning, before Don, to his hand written note from the night before after he'd heard the news and I was in bed. I feel: empty. Not joyful. Not sad exactly. Not hopeful, not hopeless. I'm somewhere floating in a noxious ether of mystery. How have we come to this? How did we get even further away from Vivekananda's closing wishes in these decades since he spoke them?




To watch and listen to an 8-minute video of artist Jitish Kallat's interview with the museum curator about his installation, go here.

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65 comments:

Elisabeth said...

Thanks Ruth, for a different take on all the hype even we here in Australia hear. How can there be such joy at the death/murder of one man, however fanatical, and yet there it is, and all those lines, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter reverberate.

Is this how people felt when they learned that Hitler had died? Thanks for alerting me to this effort at real peace, both in the past and today.

J.G. said...

Thank you for a moving post about an outstanding piece of art, Ruth. The conversation here today is likely to be even more interesting than usual.

What I feel is that meeting violence with violence leads us all further along the wrong staircase. No matter who started it.

What I think is much more complicated. How do we translate such ideas into practice, on the national and international levels?

The Solitary Walker said...

'Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to Me.'

Sadly the religious tolerance Swami Vivekananda promotes is still far off; and 'the death-knell of all fanaticism' has yet to sound.

Where did we go wrong?

California Girl said...

It may be difficult to reconcile the relief/joy/resolution/finality one feels about the killing of Bin Laden but I think many of us have experienced one of the above nouns in cathartic response to his death. I am an imperfect human being and I definitely am relieved he's gone. I'm not out dancing in the streets but I don't really wonder at the response other than to think we should be more circumspect & less like the Middle Easterners who would respond the same way were it our leader who had been killed.

Ginnie said...

Interestingly, Ruth, just before reading this post I read this at another friend's site: "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

So many numb feelings---in between exhilaration and despair....

kenju said...

I like what California Girl said; she speaks for me too.

annell said...

A wonderful post! Yes, we have far to travel. There is always another "way." I do trust the man who is responsible, he probably understands global politics better than any of us. I think his goal is to "stop" this. I'm not sure either. Although if they had brought Ben Laden back our country, it would have been consumed by this for ever....at least Ben Laden is over and done. This man, but we do not have to celebrate, I would like to think whatever was done was done seriously and thoughtfully. And I do trust our President has our best interest at heart. Perhaps Peace will have to wait another day, alter all we have a long history of violence. Finding words for peace is important. To recognize peace is possible.

ellen abbott said...

I think there was no other death available for bin Laden considering the way he lived his life, the karma he made for himself. live by the sword, die by the sword. whether he was armed or not, resisting or not, there was no other alternative for his end and it was of his own making.

I don't think it will ultimately change anything. It won't stop the train he started and might even cause a little flurry of terrorist activity. I'm glad they didn't bring the body back, I'm thankful Obama isn't releasing the pictures.

Furthermore, we as a nation are appalled and incensed when our enemy rejoices in the death of one of our own and yet here we are doing exactly the same thing. so how does that make us different? Isn't that what we tell the world, we are different, we are better?

and last, thanks for this about the art installation. beautiful words and so true. why is it so hard to see and accept? too bad we have not made any progress in the last 100 years.

The Bug said...

I had a post the other day about how I didn't know what to feel - and I think that now my feelings mirror yours - I feel empty. And sad that religion is such a divisive presence in the world. I suppose the first step is for everyone to realize that there are many paths to God. What a gigantic leap that would be!

Lilith said...

I said a prayer for Bin Laden the other night, for god to guide him on his journey. Not because I agreed with Bin Laden, in fact I abhor his fanaticism, but because he was a human being.

Jane Lancaster said...

I love that speech by Vivekananda. Why does that have to be so hard? I don't know how I should feel about this at all, it throws me into a sea also, a sea of confusion... one thing I know..killing is not right.

Maureen said...

A superb post, Ruth. Kallat has created an extraordinarily moving installation, the conceptualization of which he so articulately addresses in the video. The background to the piece and its convergence with other historical events gives the installation great power and meaning. It is art at its best.

Ruth said...

Elisabeth, one of the most troubling realities of our world to me is that we "learn" about others, in different countries and cultures, through visual media and words, music, and all, and we think we know. It distresses me to think that anyone might think that what they see on TV in this country represents me.

One of the very best things about blogging for me has been getting to know individuals from different places, hearing the multitude of voices.

Thank you for your comment, Elisabeth.

Ruth said...

J.G., that's a poetic way to state it, in light of this visual art. It can be so hard to go back down the staircase and choose a different one!

As you say, the complexities of turning the oversize tanker around in this world of big systems, geed and political realities may be beyond the capacities of anyone to fathom, let alone accomplish. Heaven help us. Thanks for your contribution.

Ruth said...

Robert, I don't know. I imagine that many, even yourself, could explain rationally the hows and whys we got here. The real question is, how did it get so out of hand? How is war not an anachronism that no one tolerates?

Ruth said...

California Girl, I know, I understand.

Is it good that Bin Laden is dead? I can't, nor do I wish to, argue with any imagined response to that question.

Ruth said...

Boots, I believe King and Vivekananda were cut from the same cloth. Nonviolent resistance, negotiation, active, peaceful resolutions are all things I believe in. Whether this answer (Bin Laden's assassination) at this point in time, given these circumstances, is what needed to happen, is beyond my understanding or thank god responsibility. My responsibility is to live as peacefully and respectfully as I can. How we respond to these events is very important, even though our voice is not involved in the decisions that carried them out. As others have said here, the jubilation in the streets of DC and NYC is telling, but it's important to remember that the majority of them have been young people who have lived with this Public Enemy #1 for half their lives, and the memory of 9/11, and all the homeland security alerts . . . Imagine having this be the reality of most of your conscious life!

Ruth said...

Kenju, I think each of our lives is a prayer . . . for justice, or for peace, or for retribution, or for whatever speaks from within us, possibly all of these. I celebrate your honest response, and everyone's. I also don't want to forget that for every one of the 3,000 killed on 9/11, there are thousands, maybe millions, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places where if you haven't been killed, your life is a living hell, with us and our government complicit, painfully so. I want justice for these mothers and children too.

Ruth said...

Annell, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I have great difficulty trusting much of anyone in leadership any more, very sadly. I so wish it were otherwise. I'm holding onto Hope by the skin of my teeth, because without it, I shudder to think what will become of us, of me. Could it be that the rudder of this craziness is controlled by anyone?

Ruth said...

Ellen, thank you for your sentiments here. I agree that the way this went down was possibly the best solution all things considered. And I agree it won't likely change much. What has been happening this year in North Africa and the Middle East is probably a more powerful series of events, showing that nonviolent protest can win victories. I pray that Al Qaeda will lose its significance, and thus its power. Bin Laden was armed by our government, trained, and equipped to do what he has done with our help. It will be a mercy if we or anyone can help put an end to this winding stair down to destruction of our race.

Yes, we are the same as people elsewhere, and until we radically embrace that fact, get inside the other's experience, we will keep on judging one another.

Ruth said...

Dana, imagine!

Ruth said...

Lilith, what a loving act. Thank you for sharing it. Our life is a prayer, everything we do and say, our being. We are a prayer. What are we praying for?

Cusp said...

So much craziness around this whole event (OBL's death). Such a blessing to come to this place where there is a calm, measured and thoughtful reponse.

Ruth said...

Jane, killing is not right. We know this. Yet, as Ellen said, maybe it would have been worse to keep him alive, and capture him. At times like this, we seem to feel we must choose a side and say if it was right or wrong. I raise the question here not to offer an answer, but to express my own response, which I think is important for us all to do at some level, even just for ourselves, and even if it is a response of utter confusion.

Ruth said...

Maureen, I'm glad you watched and listened to the video interview too, to hear more of his heart about this project. The significance of the speech happening to fall on September 11 is something I feel along with Kallat, it feels remarkable and noteworthy. And it led to this installation, and people like you and me being moved. This kind of artistic, beautiful response to the difficult realities and questions of our existence can be comforting and insightful in ways that inspire us to do more, be more, and do better and be better.

Ruth said...

Cusp, thank you. In some way I'm grateful for a catalyst like this to get a discourse going about stuff that bumps around in our heads and hearts.

Miss Jane said...

"What I feel is that meeting violence with violence leads us all further along the wrong staircase." Wonderful comment by JG.
Thank you so much for this post. I love the installation at the much-beloved Art Institute. How far we've strayed from the ideal of tolerance. The internet is a powerful tool for bringing us all closer, but it also seems to be an outlet for anonymous hatred and bullying. I can barely stand to read the comments on some sites that just degenerate into bigotry and name-calling. The truth. The truth. More and more elusive, just over that smoked-smudged, blood-soaked horizon.

Susan said...

Unfortunately for the men who had to assassinate Bin Laden, the man had made himself a symbol of our vengeance. I feel more sorry for those Navy seals who risked their lives and that they must now live with blood on their hands, even though I'm sure they feel that justice was done and very much warranted. Bin Laden created his fate. And there was no other choice but to kill him. I don't hate the man, but I despise what he did.

Margaret said...

I don't believe this was returning hate for hate. I believe it was justice. When an individual is dangerous and innocent lives continue to be in harm's way, than this is not hate. I am proud America treated this TERRORIST with dignity. His head was not displayed on a pole, he was given a funeral that followed his religious beliefs...

Of course, others will pick up where he left off as leader of a terrorist group (I do not consider it a religious group). I only hope that the charisma of the new leader will be faulty and that in-fighting and jealousy will prevail.

I will read this post more closely and watch the video later this evening. I don't take gleeful joy in Bin Laden being killed, but I do think justice has been done. The following is a strong statement, but I think anyone who thinks Bin Laden was treated unfairly and that America acted shamefully is dangerous to a peaceful society. Sometimes peace and justice requires such action. I hope most of your readers agree - I purposely didn't read any comments yet because I didn't want to back down on my feelings...

I will read them later tonight...

Barb said...

My young friend was killed in one of the planes on 9/11. He was an aeronautical engineer, newly married, full of promise. Killing bin Laden did not bring him back. I am not celebrating. However, I do believe there is some justice in the terrorist's death.

Terresa said...

I'm not political, in fact, I avoid world news and local news even, at all costs. I feel as if journalists and reporters, the news in the general is a big wheel, with spin doctors at the helm.

I do appreciate your thoughts here, though, the killing of anyone gives one pause, to reflect.

Montag said...

Wonderful. Where else may I go and see a reference to "the great Zoroastrian nation"?

Ruth said...

Miss Jane, yes I appreciate J.G.'s comment too.

My head is spinning with the things you bring up, the anonymous hatred and bullying. A lot of verbal leaving of dog poo on the sidewalk without bothering to clean up the stink. I don't know where it gets us. Maybe it makes people feel better.

I think a salient question is How can we listen to one another as we talk about what is true for us?

Ruth said...

Susie, I hate what he did too. I hate what keeps happening, that we get ourselves into such deep messes that our only response is more violence. I don't know how to stop the spiral. I hope (though I am losing hopefulness) that more and more dialog can happen where it can and will make a difference.

Ruth said...

Margaret, thank you for your response. I agree that much of what is happening in the world is not as religious as many would have us think, or maybe as founded in religious bigotry now as when it began (though I think young people are still recruited with religious foment). I feel that Vivekananda's words are as pertinent to members of Al Qaeda as to anyone anywhere, to governments, to terrorists, to all of us who live and radiate our being to those around us. I look forward to anything further you have to add after listening to the video interview and reading comments.

I hope you have a great day!

Ruth said...

Barb, oh so terrible that your friend was killed there. I still can't fathom it, what happened. I don't know if we can really ever really get past it, honestly. I agree that at this point, this is probably the best justice that we can do, and like Margaret, I'm glad for a semblance of decency, especially that Obama has decided not to allow photos of him dead to be publicized.

Ruth said...

Terresa, I tend to avoid political news too. I find it very difficult to find a voice I trust. It takes a great deal of perseverance to stay abreast and informed. Then if you do, it can annihilate you with despair.

Ruth said...

Montag, at your own blog, I would think. At least I wouldn't be surprised.

Ruth said...

Articles and Op-Eds about the killing of Bin Laden abound. For one on the ethics of government-instigated assassination at the NYTimes by Jim Rasenberger, read here. It ends with this paragraph:

There is no arguing with assassination as a short-term expedient. But ultimately, the wars we are fighting will depend on defeating a violent ideology, not on killing individuals. Osama bin Laden got what he had coming, so let us make an exception in his case. But if we want the rest of the world to believe that the way to justice is law and not cold-blooded killing, then we need to be very careful that the killing we undertake in the name of justice remains the very rare exception, and not the rule.

Ruth said...

Another excellent article about how we have to change how we think about this stuff, by Tom Engelhardt.

Patricia said...

Ruth,
Thank you for this post. I cannot read anything about the killing. I cringe when I think that humans of all stripes continue to fight in such brutal ways. We cannot seem to find ways towards dissipating the dissension and horror of war-like actions. We need passionate voices for a rational world.

Oliag said...

After reading your post and all these wonderful comments I realize I am very numb and ambivalent regarding this death. I do agree that this is where his life was heading and that in many minds and cultures this is indeed justice served....yet I find myself also realizing that this is not solving any problems we have nor is killing something I morally agree with...of anyone. One thing I feel certain of is that this is not celebratory. It is not the end of terrorism. It is also not a historically new event. Someday I will have to study ancient history...

Marcie said...

You are the first person who has managed to express just exactly what I've been feeling. Empty. Nothing. Not celebratory. Not grief. Just a sort of numb acceptance that this is what the world has come to.
Thank-you for giving words to my thoughts.

Peter said...

I’m pleased, not surprised, to see this post with you questions, your moderate view on what happened. Seen from Europe, where we of course were extremely shocked by the 9/11 event, but maybe, somehow, now ten years later, probably seeing it in a slightly more “distant” way than you over there, I must admit that some of us were slightly shocked by the “jubilation scenes” we saw after Bin Laden’s killing. But, once again, I can understand the even stronger feelings on your side of the Atlantic and that what we saw was an immediate and spontaneous relief reaction.

To jubilate over someone’s death is however somehow disturbing. Should we make exceptions for Hitler, Bin Laden…? History will teach us how important it was to have Bin Laden killed, about his real influence today … and the possible counter reactions from some extremists.

Don’t take this as critics from my side; I don’t think that there is a simple and clear answer to all this, at least not that we can see today. What we have to remember is that when we read history some decades later, we somehow may look differently on certain events and,in the meantime, we should perhaps all try to avoid some too strong and extreme reactions?

The movements we have seen in North Africa and the Middle East recently seem so far not to have been too much influenced by extremists, which maybe somehow indicates that the Bin Laden / Al Qaeda influence is not that strong anymore? Therefore, would it have been better to neglect him, to “forget” him? Once more, I / we don’t know. Do our leaders know better? Maybe. On the other hand, just one or a few extremists can do a lot of harm. So… ??? No easy answers.

On a more general basis, I believe however that we in Europe, North America … should ask ourselves some questions. What are we doing “wrong” if we are so badly seen by many other countries and communities? There is clearly too much in our behaviour that “disturbs”. I don’t think I have to make a list. Already the fact that we are the rich, the pretended “besserwissers” (know-it-all)…

rosaria said...

Ruth, thanks for this. These are days to ponder our deep feelings, our reactions to these events, our need to understand the spectrum of human reactions. We are all little children when we feel threatened.

lorely said...

I'm still processing how I feel about his death...if you get a chance...(I'm sure you're a busy lady)...read my poem NAMASTE AND VENGEANCE...it addresses this issue...the words lead one to their own interpretation...

lc said...

I have watched this spectacle in awe. so much joy over this killing. and not only joy but jokes and laughter. a world shouting to see proof; pictures.
my God, how sad
and curious.
more wars and evil have been committed in the name of God than for any other reason. I understand the need for justice, but not the need for applause.
this is untamed hate all around, pure and simple
no God in it.

Jeanie said...

Empty. Yes. I heard it on the radio, half grogged in the early waking. Was it real, was I still asleep? And when the coverage continued, I knew. I felt relieved and frightened. Not happy. Not sad. And yes, empty. It isn't over and won't be for a long time -- just another chapter. It's just as confusing as before, but now the fear doesn't have a face.

I love the staircase. I know I probably have as many photos as you. Thanks for sharing it.

Ruth said...

Patricia, I pray for the day that both the people and the leaders will look at war and violence as an anachronism of the past. Thank you for contributing your peaceful wishes.

Ruth said...

Oliag, yes, where his life was heading. There's no doubt that in his world, this is in some way what he expected and even wanted. I believe he wanted to be martyred, no doubt believing it would foment more anger and recruits for his cause. I would like our leaders to look more closely at the cause, and why this cycle of hate is perpetuated.

Ruth said...

Marcie, good, I'm glad. I needed to express these questions, my frustration and doubt.

Ruth said...

Peter, I would say it is through blogging more than anything that I've come to step back and look at our country's place in the world, and practices, and gain a broader perspective. You are right, it is different here, and we get tunnel vision about these things, losing ourselves in our own story! The jubilation in the streets is just as strange to me as to you, and it doesn't represent my feelings, and the feelings of many others as indicated here.

Yes, this event is much less potent in the context of what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East, and his influence has wained. What does it mean now, especially since nonviolent protestors have won victories there?

Your final questions are in me constantly: What are we doing wrong? I don't think it is as simple as a difference of religion. As you say, more delicately, we white Westerners have lorded it over the earth too long. Now we have a powerful triumvirate of power: the U.S., EU and NATO, which decides which dictators we like, and which we don't (i.e., which have oil, and which don't).

Thank you for your good discourse here.

Ruth said...

Rosaria, you make a good point there, we are all little children when we feel threatened. That does offer perspective on a lot of the feelings around.

I hate that we have allowed this man and his followers to instill fear in us on such a wide scale.

Ruth said...

Lorely, I love your poem. Your questions in it deepen the search into the cycles of our hearts. Thank you.

Ruth said...

lc, I feel the same sick feeling in my gut watching jubilation on our shores as I do when I see it on the TV in other places over similar things.

As horrible as 9/11 was, and all that has happened since, maybe one of the best things we've learned (and some are still learning, thanks in part to our President) is that this sort of violent jihad does not represent Islam in its pure form. We have to find a way to quell fanaticism without violence and more fanaticism.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, I do hope those who lost friends and loved ones on 9/11 will feel closure from this. No, it doesn't bring them back, and as you say, it is a chapter, not the end.

I'm glad you've seen the staircase in person.

Brendan said...

Wonderful, insightful, heartfelt post. The leys of inspiration, from the art installation of Jitish Kallat to the words by Swami Vivekananda, form a sure middle-ground in a swirling world. While the big new out there seems always so raucous and divisive, so many people -- as attested here -- struggle to not give in to fear or hatred.
To me, there was too little soul-searching after Sept. 11 to consider what sort of nation we had become -- whether we had indeed sowed the seeds which came back to burn us. Those meditative voices all but drowned out in the din of hot media news.
I was at an AA meeting at noon on Sept. 11, 2001 -- many of the folks there were in shock, angry, some of them worried to death about relatives working in the World Trade Center that morning. (I was supposed to fly out the next day for a convention - that was nixed). Closing out the meeting, we prayed together the St. Francis Prayer, which is the strongest palliative I know toward self-centered fear:

"Lord, make me a channel of thy peace, that where there is hatred, I may bring love; that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness; that where there is discord, I may bring harmony; that where there is error, I may bring truth; that where there is doubt, I may bring faith; that where there is despair, I may bring hope; that where there are shadows, I may bring light that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted; to understand, than to be understood; to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen."

We walked out of there into a different world, different even than the open wound it had become. - Brendan

Ruth said...

Brendan, not sure how you do it, but I'm glad you do. You give me a word, often I have to look it up, and then something opens. I did not know "ley" — I love it here . . . arable land put down to grass; grassland or pastureland. Something in that flat, open field of possibility strikes a beautiful chord, as a setting for growing and moving under the sky.

And being transformed, as the prayer of St. Francis transformed your spirits in the AA meeting on 9/11. This whole thought and field of wonder flows out of the Rilke reading today, and Robert's and your comments, and my response. If we extract ourselves from the grooves of habitual thinking, and walk out with open eyes and ears, and most importantly open hearts, we can find a different world. It's the only hope.

I remember reading an interview with a jihadist in Afghanistan by a Western journalist. The man of violence was a poet, a tender man who loved his family. His words were as beautiful as if he had just put down a book of Rumi or Hafiz. My heart opened a little more to the possibility that he and others like him are so desperate they feel they have no choice but to do what they do. I have no way to argue with that. I want a different world . . . for him.

Friko said...

In my own, uninvolved and very matter of fact way, I have also tried to find some kind of reaction to the news and the treatment of the news.

I am not sure how to react to the Swami's words. So many great, kind, wise and humane men and women have spoken similar words and, I am quite sure, meant them; they have brought us no further along the path advocated by him and them. Some of us may strive to find peace and tolerance in a wilderness of the opposite.

Your words are timely and, as ever, well thought out and beautifully laid before us; I am so glad people like you exist in a time when harsh reality shows us a different face of humanity.

Thank you, Ruth.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Friko. It's been quite a century since Swami's speech. Horrible things have happened, terrible choices made. Many of them from my own country's leaders. Thinking of the bombs on Japan, how can I forget our own history, even as I'm horrified by another terrible act of terror?

You say that words like the Swami's have not brought us any closer to the goal of peace. I wonder, though, how much worse it might have been if there were not such words and hopes. And some who spoke words like this — King, Gandhi, Mandela, to name a few — did achieve something great. And how many have taken heart from words and deeds like theirs, even those in North Africa and the Middle East this year, actively, in peace.

What is important to me in this art installation is how it celebrates another September 11 reality. Who knows what inspiration will come from it toward other deeds of light and peace, that will make a difference?

erin said...

this is what strikes me the most, we believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. and so with this, i feel how deeply we are failing.

what a beautiful and thoughtful way you've presented this here for us, not coloured at all, but as a question to ourselves.

imagine, this speech on Sept 11th all those years ago...

xo
erin

Ruth said...

Erin, thank you for sharing this openness with me, this longing for acceptance and love.

Lynda Lehmann said...

In spite of reservations at entertaining the more "base"emotions, I feel joy. Not at the idea of his murder--murder is always ugly--but at the idea that he will not kill innocents again.

A true freedom fighter uses reason and negotiation to win his/her ends. One who murders randomly and without trepidation, who takes the life of many innocent victims, has taken the freedom of not only the victims by stealing their days, but of all those thousands of mourners left behind.

I can wish and hope and pray from my deepest heart for the world to be free from those who perpetrate heinous acts, but it will be eternity before that hope is realized, I'm afraid!

And I do share your consternation. How did the human condition get to this? Or perhaps it's always been this way. :(

Stratoz said...

this reminded me of an often preached lesson to my students... I don't want you to face the consequences of what these actions will bring.

I don't want to live with the consequences my nation faces because we place consequences on actions ... ... on and on it goes.

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

Profound, Ruth. Deeply profound.