September 11, 2002

Not even
under mortar fire
do they flinch;
the Buddhas of Bamiyan
Take Refuge in the dust.
May we keep our minds clear and calm
and in the present moment, and honor
the dust.

-Dennis Dutton

I remember in March 2001 when I heard that the Taliban had acted on their threat to destroy the 2000-year-old giant stone Buddhas at Bamiyan, Afghanistan. It was so purely backward and bone-headed a thing to do I wanted to rip my hair out. It took place in a country so far away, so insulated from our influence we were utterly powerless to prevent it.

As practically everyone in the world knows, just a few months later that same Medieval mentality struck within a couple of miles of my home and decimated seven buildings, two of which I had worked in for some time.

The shock of knowing that such things can happen -- literally "out of the blue" -- was compounded by armed troops stationed a block from my home and having nowhere to escape what was essentially a perpetual funeral service in my neighborhood.

The grief came in waves, and the tears came, too, and following the tears each time, a deep and powerful anger. But anger at whom? The hijackers? They're dead. What's the point? Anger at Osama? He's a very sick man. A lunatic. What's the point? Besides, my anger was too big for just Bin Laden. My anger was bigger than all the hijackers and all the misguided Al Qaeda and the Taliban, too.

As time went on and the rest of the country focused on anthrax and the newly escalated war on terrorism and human rights, I tried to do the same, but the smoke from the pile wouldn't leave us alone. It was like nothing I have ever smelled before, since, nor ever hope to smell again in this life or any other. Like the burned tooth from the dentist's drill combined with plastic and perhaps a little human flesh. Just when I was opening a good book, or looking out the window, there it was to piss me off all over again. May I please go back to my life? What is this, some cruel message from the cosmos?

It seemed so unfair, but every time I got angry, the anger just built up and bounced off the inside of my chest. Even George W's simple-minded "kill the bad guys" leadership couldn't absorb the feeling. After roughly the ten thousandth time the rage had built up, I decided to focus it on something worth the effort. It was ignorant rage and brutality that were to blame for all this, but how do you focus anger on other anger, or on plain old ignorance?

My friends and I who are fortunate enough to be well educated and well taken care of seem to have been lulled into a fairy tale by our ivory tower upbringing. We watch for two decades while a backward wave of selfishness and ignorance advance on an ever more powerful America and we just laugh at the politicians and the people in the "red states" and we look at each other and say, "What idiots." We deserve a portion of the blame for this crap. It's just going to get worse if all we do is huddle together at art openings and brunches and try to ignore the rest of America.

I don't know, maybe we could all of us take some of our grief and anger at terrorist outrages and the military reactions to them and turn that energy toward reaching out and actually doing something about the bulkheaded mindset that perpetuates this kind of lunacy. I don't mean we all have to write stories or make plays or sing songs or become teachers, but maybe it would help if we just stop backing down when our uncle starts going on about the "myth" of global warming or about how he doesn't have time to read anymore.

Forgive me for going off and putting a guilt trip on you. Just consider it's part of my "healing process." I swear, I'm not going to carry this anger around for another damn year.

Going through something like this made it even more clear to me how important friends are. Thank you for your love and attention and for considering my thoughts.

It is certain that I am stronger now than I have ever been. I'm looking forward to the rest of my life, however long or short it may be. Today I'll be working to post on my Web Site some of my photos from the disaster and then letting it go.

It's another beautiful day today, just like it was last year. I'm a lucky person to have lived in this city for more than a decade. We're all lucky, I dare say, either to be living where we are, on this planet, or even living at all.

This attack was far from the most brutal thing humans have done to each other, it's almost embarrassing to realize. The world has been a pretty savage place for a pretty long time. 9/11 was an attitude adjustment. Let's just not let it turn us into turtles, unless they are snapping turtles.

Indeed, let us honor the dust today and move forward tomorrow in an enlightened and awakened way.

 © Kurt Opprecht, 2002

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