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holiest of all spots on earth is where an ancient hate becomes a present
anniversary of September 11th has come and gone. I’ve watched the
planes slam into the Trade Centers over and over again. I’ve watched
repeatedly while the Towers come tumbling down in a cloud of dust that
consumes the City of New York. I’ve heard commentators wring every tear and
every emotion of compassion from their audience. I’ve felt the horror of
the victims and the grief and grievance of the survivors. Behind its
horrific vision, war is now upon us. And, I watch while Nobel Peace Prize
winners, Presidents, and Prime Ministers justify more death and destruction
as a “necessary evil.”
I ask myself, “Who cannot be profoundly troubled by the impossible occurrence of September 11th?” And, I am startled by an answer that comes seemingly from nowhere. I realize then, that there is a large part of this world that is celebrating, not mourning, the anniversary of September 11th. Identifying with the hijackers, a whole population is vindicated by what to them is an act of outright heroic martyrdom, an act of self-righteous self-preservation. As “an American”, my focus is directed to the committed heroism of the New York firefighters and to the determined martyrdom of the passengers of Flight 93 that went down in the fields of western Pennsylvania in an act to foil the plan of the hijackers. And I ask, “What is the difference between ‘our’ heroes and ‘theirs’”?
If heroism is defined in terms of courage in face of overwhelming odds, including death, for the purpose of preserving oneself or one’s way of life, who could be more heroic than the hijackers? If the intensity of commitment is the same, what is the difference? In every conflict, in every era, the “right” reflects only the eye of the beholder. Are our ideas of good and evil dependent only on our personal point of view and our individual reference of self-preservation? Where is our All-Inclusive reference for “good” or “right” in this world? In other words, where is God?
Clearly the legacy of September 11th is a heritage of profound questioning. And, yet, are we any closer to an answer?
We have sought for worldly solutions that have either led to more problems or merely to a change in its appearance. War, or even its opposite, cannot be anything but more of the same. Perhaps, it is in this ominous moment, that we dare look at this dilemma from a completely different perspective.
What can be the only question here? We can’t avoid the formulation of it. This query returns consistently throughout the story of carnage wrought by this species called mankind and especially throughout any history of his religion. It reflects the utter frustration of the dilemma in which we universally find ourselves. It echoes hauntingly in our minds: If this devastation is real, how can there be a God that is All-Powerful and All Loving? If death is real, God cannot be.
Yet, dare we ask the corollary question? It is rarely expressed, and even more threatening to ask, for its utterance intimidates the very foundations of our perception of reality: If there is a God, can this world be real? If there is a God, death cannot be.
In these two questions, we have framed the paradox in which we sit. Reason tells us that only one of these paradigms can be true. In considering the atheism posed by the first question, I must acknowledge the futility of purpose represented by a world seemingly constructed on the certainty of death. Yet, ultimately I find no comfort there. The second question, while perhaps more disturbing, nonetheless, offers a hope of salvation.
Consider this shocking idea from A Course In Miracles. In this incredible document Jesus endows us with His unworldly prescription for a humanity separated from itself and from God. Listen:
The separated ones have invented many ‘cures’ for what they believe to be the ‘ills of the world.’ But the one thing they do not do is to question the reality of the problem. Yet its effects cannot be cured because the problem is not real. ACIM, Lesson 41
On the 15th of September 2001, I found myself walking in Union Square in Manhattan among the makeshift altars and heart-wrenching memorials to the Trade Center victims. These tributes had appeared spontaneously and anonymously over the previous four days. This day, however, was the day that families and friends finally had given up hope that their loved ones were going to be somehow rescued from this impossible travesty. After waiting by the phone for four days, the grieving ones were beginning to emerge from their residencies and were talking publicly for the first time. Whether it was rage, devastating sadness, or raw vulnerability, the grief was palpable.
This wall of heartache, all at once, became very personal. It collapsed in on me like the power of gravity acting on a rocket leaving earth. It thrust itself upon me ripping my heart apart like a surgeon with a pair of rib-splitters. I was gutted open, susceptible to every nuance of emotion, every shift of the consciousness of angst to which I had become seamlessly joined.
In that moment, I remembered Jesus’ caution that pain is a wrong perspective. When it is experienced in any form, it is a proof of self-deception. It is not a fact at all. There is no form it takes that will not disappear if seen aright. Wow! No room for compromise here. Could He be right? Certainly if any anguish could be justified, this one could. Certainly, if any grievance could be rationalized, this one could. Yet, Jesus was dismissing any form of pain…as a result of my own self-deception! Up to this moment, every application of the Course I had ever made had substantiated the truth that my willingness to see differently allows for a miraculous shift in my perception. What would happen if I was willing to question my interpretation of this terrible intensity I was experiencing? What would happen if I doubted my own perception? Tearfully, I prayed for Jesus to show me the Truth.
With that earnest plea for help, a glimmer of Light began to appear miraculously in my mind. The physical and emotional intensity began to move and converge, enfold and embrace itself in a Light ballet of passion and healing. My raw and broken heart was mended and soothed, but left open and vulnerable, so to better reveal and extend its therapeutic grace to a world still seeing only grief and sadness. My mind so recently split by conflict and disbelief was repaired by a Singular vision of Reality, obviously not of this world.
What a moment ago was agonizing pressure, transfigured to a passageway of rapidly ascending Light. My body disappeared as I joined as Light with Light. In the impossibility of their destruction, the Trade Center Towers literally had become a corridor for the entrance of God’s Love into my misperceived world of apparent hate and death. Powerfully, at last, I understood the wonderfully uncompromising meaning of the Course’s phrase, “love knows no opposite.”
In a moment of ostensible crucifixion, I had remembered my
own Resurrection. Through the Grace of His Love, I recognized I had been
merely mistaken. I was lifted above time and space, beyond a world that I
was certain now to be but an illusion of limited form. The all-encompassing
beneficence of the Power of God was revealed. My perception of, and
justification for pain had been a paradigm of limited thought that had acted
as an obstruction to prevent me from remembering the Truth of Life that
Jesus had demonstrated for me: There is no Death.
Through the miracle of an action of total forgiveness, the world of
perception disappeared and gave way to the realization of the Eternity of
Life and Love Everlasting. The world I see is of
my own making and does not exist. Thank God I have been shown
another way to see.