Remembrance

On Tuesday morning, like all Americans I lost my story.

My words emptied in the face of those images.

In the space that remained, there was anger (aptly documented on my Web log). As if when the story disappears, anger rushes to fill it.

I’m left wondering what story you tell if you build upon that anger.

Unspeakable stories, I’m sure.

But the story weaving is beginning again. Slowly the threads feed into the spool, Odysseus sails the far seas, and night falls.

We partake in the nation retelling itself — all bluster and fury on the surface, hiding quilt-layers of heroism and generosity.

***

I am, at my base, a mythological person. That is to say that I think that the stories are more real than our reality. The gods came first. It is in this light that I can so heavily connect to Doc’s storytelling.

Being mythological in my thinking leads me certain places, though. It leads me to realities that are radically different from the rationalized existence of our profane days and nights. The sacred underlies, undergirds, and supercedes it all.

And as I look at the deep mythologies of the world (with the exception of radically isolated tribes), none are without tales of violence, war, and destruction. Though the human condition may be that we are meant to rail against the nature of things, the stories hold certain truths: Like it or not, we cannot escape the destructive nature of some of the gods. Ares is as real as Aphrodite.

And to try to limit our world solely to the gods of love, peace, and justice is to deny the full spectrum of reality.

None of this is to get into rah-rah mode and say “WAR IS GREAT!” But in the face of our societal conversations regarding retaliation and pacifism, I still think it is instructive that Ares and Aphrodite had a torrid affair.

For reasons we may not be meant to understand, the gods of war have awakened. And while I would never say that we can’t stop them — I think it is a mistake to simply condemn them and gloss over their powerful and needed existence. In these days of remembrance, we must sacrifice to the gods what they are due.

Standing in relief of all I’ve said above, I offer this poem from David Whyte:

Self Portrait

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have been told, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

From
Fire in the Earth
by David Whyte
© Copyright 1992 by David Whyte

Editor’s note: For more on the impact of the September 11 attack, check the special section of internet.com’s E-Commerce/Marketing Channel, The Trade Center Disaster: Industry Response.

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