September 12, 2001
Can you write a song without music? Can you construct a house without concrete, wood, and steel? Can you build a relationship without feelings?
And can you write an article without words?
Today is forever to be known as,"The Day After..." and my soul compels me to write about yesterday. But it isn't easy without words. The words, you see, have not yet been created to properly depict events and emotions that no one dreamed he would ever see or feel.
And yet, millions around the world listen to media analysts, scan the radio waves, read the tabloids, and surf the web... searching, exploring, desperately hunting for the description that will connect with their sentiment or soothe their pain.
Which nouns and adjectives do you relate to?
Does"horrifying" suffice or would"ghastly" come closer to home?
Real words don't capture what has happened to our world.
Perhaps the prophet Jeremiah, in his epic requiem,"Eichah," said it best. In lamenting the fall of the Jews and Jerusalem over 2400 years ago, he used the simple word,"Alas!" It is more of an utterance than a word. It is a cry. A wail. A guttural expression that goes beyond the limits of any finite definition. Real words just don't capture what has happened to our world. Alas.
There are those whose intense pain may lead them to the feeling that speaking about action, in the wake of immeasurable grief and bereavement, may be insensitive or even disrespectful. I can understand that, but I cannot agree."Response" is not a contradiction to loss. It is its evolvement.
In truth, if ever there were a time when the saying, "actions speak louder than words," was appropriate, this would seem to be it.
Certainly the actions of the heroes in the ongoing Herculean rescue effort, speak volumes about the value of human life...and death. And certainly the actions of the thousands who waited in lines for hours to donate blood, speak clearly about caring for one's fellow man or woman. And certainly the military response that must surely follow, will speak loudly about the lessons that need to be learned and taught.
But cataclysmic events also call for actions of a different strain. Actions of a very personal nature.
I'm not alone in feeling numb, while I struggle and contemplate what it is I could possibly do now. Despite my full realization that language will be totally inadequate in any attempt to encapsulate the enormity of the calamitous nightmare that has occurred, I find I am no different from most. I too scour the articles and web sites in my own frantic pursuit of some kind of literary balm. The journey is fruitless, yet fixating, at the same time. I suppose this is all part of the"healing process," as they taught us in graduate school.
"Our lives will never be the same again." What does that mean?
But one observation emerges. After all the pundits have concluded their conjecturing and meandering, they seem to land on the same finish line – more or less. No matter how you size up the particulars, they say, one conclusion is clear –"Our lives will never be the same again."
And then something strange happened. The more I read it, the less I understood it!"Our lives will never be the same again."
What does that mean? Is it something positive or negative? Are they referring to a state of fear and chronic insecurity or to a dazed impetus toward resolution and self-improvement?
Sound the Alarm
Shocking events of mammoth proportion contain within them colossal potential for serious contemplation. Nothing gets you moving faster than the rage of a 5-alarm fire! Which is probably why God sends one in the first place!
But the real shock is what happens afterwards – after the blaze is doused, the smoke has cleared, and the embers cease to smolder. More often than not, the fire is gone. Daily life resumes – as well it should. But when it does, it often extinguishes the inspiration and passion that could have brought about real and lasting changes. What seemed so important just a few days ago, suddenly appears trivial, grueling, or just out of reach. The event, so traumatic and packed with vitality, actually fades into the permanent recycle bin. The"wake-up" button becomes the"snooze" button.
Yes, there are exceptions - plenty of them. But most of us somehow fall prey to the clutches of complacency. The promises fade and the perseverance all but vanishes. We forget...we deny...we rationalize – and sadly, we stay the same.
The tragedy is that our lives will likely be the same again.
There are no magical ways to avoid this plunge into neutral gear. The conviction necessary to forge ahead must come from within. Only a relentless surge of zeal and enthusiasm can forestall the avalanche of resignation. It takes real muscle to remain steadfast in your new resolve. It also helps to start as close to the event as possible. Sometimes a great start can give you the momentum you need.
I can't tell you the specifics of what these days of apocalypse should catapult you to do. As mentioned earlier, the action you need to take is very personal. Only you know, deep down, the changes you need to make.
I can tell you one thing. No matter how dreadful and alarming the current situation may seem, even a catastrophe as virulent as this one is also subject to the very same perils of complacency.
The analysts are wrong. The tragedy today is not that,"Our lives will never be the same again." The tragedy is that, in all likelihood, our lives will actually be very much the same again.
You know what to do.
Do it now. You may never get the chance again.