September 11th, 2001 was a day which left me all alone completely and absolutely and eternally in this world in a way nothing else in my life ever had before or since. I happened to be staying in a hotel in
The WTC was something very personal for me. It was something so beautiful for me, one of the most beautiful works of architecture ever. I spent a lot of time over the years seriously studying it from all over the city. In the 80s I used to deliver to the WTC every morning at 8:45 A
Its collapse and all people who died at that instant was for me the collapse of all I knew not just as ideas in the head but as living itself. Duality, twin~ness is such an archetypical representation of the unity of the soul with its universe. The twin collapse was for me the collapse of my whole inner and my outer world. All around me, my Arab friends no longer trusted my being non-Arab, and my non-
Within myself, I could find no way to condemn anyone despite how I hated them because I realized at once that that hate which brought down the WTC and piloted those planes was the same hate that consumed me. I hated them. I hated the ones whose hate drove them to hate. I hated the ones whose hate taught them to hate. I hated the hate in me. I hated all the hate around me and that had swirled around me all those years that led up to September 11th. We all knew it was going to happen some day one day and none of us had the courage to say no. I knew I would never find the way to humanness again, and I knew nobody on the planet would ever find that way to humanness again until I purged myself of all that hate and all the excuses for hate. If Islam, PEACE, is not the way to peace, if being at peace is not the way to peace. Then how is peace to be.
This was not a sectarian problem. Peace is not a sectarian question. All spiritual teachers practice the same peace. Peace is at the center of all practice. Prayer of the Heart and the way of kenosis, the way of bowing in peace to love, the way of the Bodhisattva, dharma, the holy circle of the sufis, of the first nations, of the Hassids, of the !Kung healing ceremonies, the interdependent co-arising of the
The vow to free all creatures and the practice and its application to life at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and on your dates, and at work and when the guy behind you honks his horn before the light turns green even!!! How to do that. It is not a problem to be solved. There is no answer to that question except to do it.
For me it was no longer enough to believe, to affirm, to say it is so. I couldn't believe. I no longer had faith. Believing had become a fig leaf. For me it had to become reality. It is so painful to feel abandoned by those whom you have loved but even more is to realize that you yourself have never really taken your own part of the bargain as seriously as you expected everyone else to.
There is no theology, no philosophy, no doctrine, no ideology which cannot be transformed into tyranny, that you can't use to lie, to hide behind, to blame. The answer is personal, existential, face to face, in your face, not in rationalization, ratiocination, justification, excuse, reason, pretexts, subtexts, proof texts, text analysis, but just in choosing. Belief, trust, faith are choices. Truth is not a sum of the parts.
You cannot let the words and the ideas and the explanations get between you and love, between you and loyalty to the ones you love.
You cannot stand alone. You cannot live by taking but by giving and that means you must have someone outside yourself, a friend, the friend, to give to. The Song of Songs is a love song. It doesn't matter who loves whom, even Our Lady of the Flowers, the lowest of the guiltiest of the low, according to Genet is the friend. The
The last thing
Love is not a feeling. Love is not a whole lot of fun. It doesn't make you look any prettier. It doesn't make you any smarter. It doesn't make you any nicer as a person. It is a hard choice. Love is the hardest of all choices. It is a choice you make yourself without help from anyone anywhere, not God nor Buddha Nature nor you mother, or the teacher in first grade you remember who loved you so much. It is a choice you make without any guarantee. Without any hope. Without any proof. Without any reason.
Books are not manuals. However the Records of the Saints by
In short order, hatred removed
The ceremony of sema, the “whirling” of the dervishes is a sport of young people. Few are able to continue the physical discipline beyond their 30s, like top football players. I began to study sema when I was already over 40. It is a sport that cannot be done by anyone on their own. It took one friend of mine no more than a minute, maybe less to give me the key to it. He touched my hip and shoulder and at once it was clear, the physics of it, the physiology of it and like zazen, once you have done it physically even once, it changes your life.
It is many years now since September 11th, and my friend who simply touched my hip and shoulder so many years before that showed me that center from which one simply chooses, and all the movement after that follows. Like a potter centering the clay, or a zen teacher straightening your back or a yoga teacher moving your thumbs into the correct mudra, or Julia Child dropping the chicken on TV, it is only that face to face which breaks through all the crap. And if you give your soul to
I know I have a long way to go before I am healed of September 11th, before the hate is cleansed, but I know my friend is there. I always have the friend to give my all to. The choice is all I have. He touched me all those years ago, and at that moment I was able to choose, and all I have to do is choose again and again and again and again, no matter how long it takes. It is never too late and never too soon. You just choose to do it. That is the only choice you have. The touch is real. Not a promise, not an idea not a dogma or a doctrine or a contract or a hope or a dream. It is not an expectation. It is an aspiration, a choice.