Something about enormous calamities spurs us to recount our own personal connection to them, if only the moment of discovery, and our immediate reaction. Maybe it is a form of witness, of testimony. Of participating in the pageant of history. Or the re-exerting of a tiny bit of control over chaotic, gigantic forces well beyond us. I would expect that Ravenswood Bureau Chief Caren Jeskey would have had a reaction that is both distinctive and challenging, and as always she does not disappoint. Her Saturday report:
My mother adheres to a strict no-daytime-TV policy for herself. She’s a gardener, among many other talents, and maximizes rather than wastes her precious days. That’s why I knew something big was happening in the world when I came downstairs that warm Tuesday in September, 20 years ago today. Mom was stationed in front of the television with an expression I had never seen before.
I joined her briefly until something inside of told me to get the heck out of there. The gist of the story was all I could handle. I said goodbye to this new model of Mom I was seeing, and walked out the front door of my folks’ home in Rogers Park (where I was staying while I completed my last year of grad school).
I intuitively knew where to go. I walked into Evanston towards the toy store on Main Street. I bought bubbles and a ball and went to the local Montessori school where I picked up my best friend’s two children and their friend Jane. I ushered them to a park at the beach, and we played the afternoon away. I can still see their wide smiles, hear their copious laughs, and feel their youthful bliss. It was the perfect medicine.
I knew that I could only protect them—and myself—for so long. We’d have to face the music sooner or later. I retuned them to their families, and made it home just before dark. My mother was still trying to process what was happening. My Dad was out of town on business, so it was just the two of us.
In retrospect I’m sorry I abandoned my Mom on one of the most difficult days in U.S. history; however, back then and still today I tend to avoid and dissociate from the evils of the world. I prefer to live in a bubble of sorts, where it makes more sense to toss a ball around in the sun than it does to consume media designed to loop me into an insatiable quest for tragic information.
The trial for the so-called architect of these attacks finally started a few days ago. I went down a rabbit hole of internet information about Al Qaeda, which led me to conflicting stories about whether or not they are currently becoming increasingly more affiliated with the Taliban.
I was flooded with a sense that there is endless horror in our world. This led me to research theories of why there is so much war, why religion is often a driving force behind such strife, and then to the matter of how the brains of non-religious folks differ form those who are religious. Some call religion a delusion, others say it’s evolutionarily necessary to instill a sense of goodness within people so they can coexist peacefully with others.
Some talk of a God-spot in the brain, others denounce this theory.
In other words, no one really knows much of anything. Theorize, yes. Know, no. From where I sit, safe and sound on a comfy couch on my back porch, my good fortune astounds me. I was not forcibly recruited as a child soldier, I do not have to learn to build bombs, carry weapons, or arm myself in any way. All I have to do is live and read and learn and use my brain to philosophize about life, and do my best to live well and stay out of danger’s way.
It’s heartbreaking to think of all of the people, near and far, who are out there right now planning ways to harm others, or in the very act at this moment. It’s not necessary. Greed, ego, fear, and the misuse of power are our mortal enemies. People don’t have to be.
I know this because meditation has taught me patience, and a way to open my mind. I’ve learned that it’s ok not to get what I want when I want it. It’s taught me that I am no more or less important than anyone else, and I do not have to force my opinions upon others. The opposite of tyranny.
As murderers sit around plotting how they will wipe others off the face of the earth I wish an army of concerned humans would just give them a paint brush, a book, a hug, a stellar education, alternatives, and let them see that it’s possible to live a beautiful, meaningful life rather than throwing it all away.