September 11 – The First Ten Years

wtc
View onto a lost world

Ten years ago I spent this day with an online community, riveted to the events of September 11 even as some of our members were living through them in New York. Many moving things were said. Many terrible too – naturally we had one or two who wanted vengeance equal in horror to the attack. One actually did use the term “carpet bomb them into the stone age”.

But that was overwhelmed by the nobility of what most had to say, even as their country was being attacked. And not just the things they said, but what they did. Phones were out in New York, and some were frustrated to the point of tears that they couldn’t let their families know they were all right. Then someone had an idea – the rest of us could make the calls for them. The community proved itself that day.

I hope they do not mind if, ten years on, I repeat some of their words here.

I’m sitting watching the sky get dark from the smoke of the third building collapsing, and seeing a layer of soot settling on the cars and sidewalks. Soot that might be skin and bone and hair and burnt fragments of family pictures.
I haven’t got to the anger and revenge part of the process yet. I’m thinking of the mommy and daddy who are right now dying under 110 stories of rubble, while their kids are waiting in some school cafeteria to be picked up.
And I’m buoyed by the simple acts of grace and humanity shown by most of the folks on this board, offering to make phone calls and expressing true concern.
Sleep and food don’t seem to be very necessary things. But solidarity and human-ness sure are.
Defending a home is as close to pure animal instinct as most civilized humans get, and that’s as it should be, I imagine.
But in the defense of principles, on the contrary, we must behave as principled people, we must act as rationally and intelligently as we have the capacity to muster.
I’ve spent the day in a lot of quiet thought and meditation, and in watching to be sure my friends and loved ones were safe. I don’t really have much to say about this, except that I hope that we do not inflame a larger conflict in our quest to bring the perpetrators to justice. That would be a far greater tragedy than a single bombing, however horrible.

Wise words, and prophetic.

Catholic Koan

BaptizedRosita Boland wrote about this picture in the Irish Times the other day. It’s from a schoolbook she had as a child.

The article is well worth reading. I just wanted to add that the image has gone viral. I’d missed the story in the Times but was alerted to it by Laughing Squid, an “online resource for interesting art, culture & technology”. Shortly thereafter, a friend in the States posted it to Facebook.

People around the world are intrigued and somewhat horrified at God’s strictly hierarchical love. Myself though, I think most are missing the philosophical depth of this little puzzle. To the uninitiated it might seem obvious that the Church wants you to select the baptised baby, but the baby is not there to be encircled! Clearly Catholicism is a lot more Zen than I thought.

I think as a child I would have resolved the conundrum by drawing in the baby. Maybe that’s too linear, but I liked drawing.

I don’t know in fact if I had this actual book in school. My brain is telling me I’ve seen it before, but I don’t trust my brain. I reckon I’m older than Rosita Boland though, but much, much younger than that drawing style, so it’s theoretically possible. In my recent trawlings through the attic I did find books from the same series, one of which I now have in my hand. And here’s something interesting – they’re not from Ireland.

They were reprinted here by Fallons and, according to the flyleaf of this one at least, “edited and revised by a panel of Irish Catechists”, but they were actually written by American nuns – mainly a Sister Maria De La Cruz of an order called the Helpers of the Holy Souls – and originally published by W.H. Sadler in New York in 1969. Look at the spelling of “baptized”.

The One Cent Catechism? My world is rocked.