Episode 43: 9/11

Fifteen years ago this past Sunday, the towers fell.

I have struggled ever since to make sense of what happened – I simply cannot.

I have returned to ground zero many times since that fateful day. I have seen the site change from a place of deep grief to a tower of renewed hope and promise. I have stood at the twin pools where now water falls like tears. While there, I cannot speak. A reverent silence overtakes me.

Like many, I have wrestled with the question of evil – not uncommon for a philosopher bent on knowing not just what but why.

It’s one thing to wrestle with such questions in the quiet of one’s study. It’s another thing to come face to face with the presence of evil and witness its devastation. How does humanity resolve, in the presence and in the aftermath of something so sinister, not just to continue living – but to do so with hope, with promise, with love?

From Moses to Gandhi; from Mother Teresa to MLK we have seen what the wisest among us have done to respond to atrocity, tragedy, oppression, hatred, injustice. This was evil at its worst, inflicted on entire populations. It threatened to either undo us or immobilize us but for the courage of their vision and their conviction.

We shall overcome.

This simple refrain, spoken into the madness that only evil can render, engenders an abiding hope that will not be undone by evil or by those who traffic in it.

We shall overcome.

No Pharoah, no tsar, no Fuhrer, no white Southern Sheriff, no Osama can diminish the human community’s capacity to grieve even the worst atrocity – and then beyond the grief to remember hope.

We shall overcome.

The words are defiant. They are bold and brash. They are rebellious. Evil wants complicity. It feeds on fear. It demands obeisance. It persists until hope is broken and the human spirit is defeated. But it is hoping against hope that rekindles within the heaviest of hearts an indomitable will that won’t die.

We shall overcome.

Enslave us in Egypt: we shall overcome.

Hang us on crosses and burn us at the stake: we shall overcome.

Ravage us with war and pestilence: we shall overcome.

Force us to the back of the bus, deny us basic human rights, sick guard dogs on us: we shall overcome.

Terrorize us: we shall overcome.

Today we remember. Tomorrow we hope. We cannot be defeated. God’s Spirit abides, hovering over the mess we have made; reminding us that we were born to love. Unless and until evil removes every spark of love within us, we shall overcome. Endure, beloved. Endure. And know that every step of the way, sound and solid or uncertain and tentative: She abides – that Spirit of God rekindling our hope as we journey together Into the Mystic.

Categories: Column Into the Mystic

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