53. I WAS ASHAMED……9/11

WTC-9-11

I do not like who I used to be. There is no doubt I’m a better person than I was,  far beyond that which once caused me self-disgust, but I do wonder if there are other traits laying in relative dormancy, waiting for an unknown catalyst that will allow them to come festering to the surface. If they are anything like what happened to me here, I both dread and welcome it. This entry does not reference any addiction; it addresses a personality flaw that came to light in the weeks following 9/11. If you’re wondering how this could align with the ongoing topics of self-improvement, self-actualization, and recovery, read on. You’ll realize by the end of this article why I’ve written it.

Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001….. Two co-workers and I were at a high school in Denver awaiting the delivery of an underground acid tank that was to be installed as part of the laboratory remodel. Our work load was light and there was nothing to do but wait. I was getting caught up on paperwork to pass the time while we listened to the radio in the trailer. Normal programming was soon interrupted and news came on that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. The DJ said there might be some deaths. My first thought went back to WWII when I had read about a bomber hitting the Empire State Building. There were some casualties and the structure is obviously still there, so while there was an immediate concern for the events so far, my initial reaction was more of curiosity than horror. With nothing else to do I suggested we go to one of the empty classrooms where construction was taking place and turn on a TV to see if we could get some more information. Like everyone else in the nation we had no idea what we were about to witness.

We came in just in time to see another plane fly into the second building; and although I had no insight to my reactions at the time, this is where my character defect started kicking in. I ask you, the reader, to forgive me for what I’m about to say. It’s difficult to write about, but I feel it’s an important observation nonetheless. Bear with me and you’ll find out how everything came out on the other side.

In my opinion it’s rude to slow down past car accidents to gawk at the wreckage. I’ve always been one to insist on NOT looking out of respect. It’s reprehensible behavior and I’ve been practicing what I preach all my life; that is up until that morning. It was so difficult to not look. I remember dozens of shaky camera angles; obscured views from the sky and street where confusion and panic were being voiced. Images flitted across the screen while stoic news reports and random speculations were voicing their opinions in the background. And then it happened. None of us watching really saw the first tower fall, but we did see the second one. Its mighty bulk tilted ever so slightly and disintegrated into itself obscured by a giant cloud of smoke and dust. Like so many of us the image is burned into my memory, unfortunately so was my reaction to it. All I could think was, “Wow, that’s good special effects!”  I might have even said something, I don’t really remember. I was so detached from the event I had no empathy about it for some time. The question was, why couldn’t I feel anything?

Three weeks have passed now. I don’t think our enemies were counting on the reaction we had as a nation. If they expected us to cower and crumble, well, THAT didn’t happen. If anything our resolve was strengthened by the disappearance of all the petty squabbling amongst ourselves as we (and a good portion of the planet) banded together and stood in unity for peace. It was a nice side-effect to the carnage of that day. Every night the news was dedicated to what had happened, and while I believe that news is only news the first time it’s seen, I agreed with the continuing coverage. Like Novocaine, the numbness I was injected with was beginning to vanish as the events of 9/11 were re-played  in an unending loop. They began to get harder and harder for me to watch. Finally I had enough. I walked into the bathroom and threw up. I also began sobbing; partially for the victims but more because I realized there was something very wrong with me.

I was immobilized.”Why hadn’t I reacted this way when it happened? Where is my humanity?” “Am I evil and selfish?”  It took some reflection but I now know what was “wrong,” and as I move through the second half of my life, I seek to reinforce a crucial part of me that was missing. Sometime in the late eighties I came across an article debating the influence of violence in media aimed namely at television and movies. Video games weren’t realistic enough to be mentioned, but I’m sure they’d be included if it were written today. I read forth with a preset point-of-view. My opinion was that people know the difference between what is make-believe and reality, and honestly I still believe it’s true, but that wasn’t the focus of debate.  The argument was this; if someone sees any act of  brutality whether it’s real or not they will not react with the same revulsion that would normally surface once the actual event is witnessed. They become desensitized. What should obviously be an expected reaction becomes dulled and unsympathetic. I changed my mind once I had finished reading the piece, but I never changed my habits; I went on watching and being entertained by violence. By the time 9/11 occurred I was so detached from reality that my mind went to the only source of connection I had established, fantasy.

As time went on I slowly began changing. Most of the actions in my life since I’ve stopped my self-destructive behavior have been focused on creativity; writing, drawing, building, and learning have worked wonders as they drive me towards becoming a better man, but what I initially missed was improving upon a more productive and creative, reaction to life. When I magnified appreciation, acceptance, tolerance, and forgiveness I ended up manifesting a creative environment. My perspective on all which surrounded me was beginning to align with what I wanted for myself.  I’ve done my best to drop the desire to compare the present with the past and this has helped me to better absorb the moment without as much prejudice.  Taking on the roles of both participant and observer has shifted my perspective towards a more compassionate lifestyle, though I’m not nearly in a place I should be yet. Selfishness and self-centeredness still assert themselves frequently, especially in the form of not listening and interrupting. Impatience, judgment, procrastination, and a whole plethora of other unwanted personality traits are still in my bag of tricks. Fortunately, a lot of them are becoming rather dusty.

My “observer” is to the point now where simply I cannot watch the yearly replay of those horrific events from twelve and a half years ago. I’ve tried, and it’s just too much. Too much suffering, too many lives forever fractured by the losses of their loved ones. All the tomorrows gone forever, and all the memories that cannot be erased. For those wounded who survived, it must be like a splinter in the soul never to be removed; a constant reminder of what cannot be repaired or replaced.

Last year my wife and I visited ground zero.  I fully expected to enter a space of restlessness and despondency. It was nothing of the sort, in fact it was one of the most spiritual places I’ve ever been; peaceful, beautiful, and inspiring. The museum on the grounds was not open yet, but we did attend another called “The Ground Zero Museum Workshop.” There are stories and photos here you probably have never heard or seen. It chronicles the event itself along with the aftermath in the weeks and months that followed.  Here is a link- Ground Zero Museum Workshop.  This tiny gallery (it’s literally one room) is also a holy place. I highly recommend it.

Those people who died that day paid with their lives to give us the gift of not only a more United States of America, but a more united world; one where we can look at each other and not just accept our differences, but ignore them completely.  They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Damn right.

Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

Advertisements

7 comments

  1. Hi … I found this post through Zemanta and clicked on it because I saw 9/11 and Ashamed in the same “sentence”. I have to say that when it happened I has a similar reaction. I was awakened and brought to the t.v. in our motel to see what was going on. With no warning, my first question was “What movie is this?”

    The numbness and uncomprehending detachment seems to be more prevalent in the States than the guilt carrying citizens realize. I envy you. I reacted the opposite. Instead of searching for the feelings I thought should be there, I built a wall. I wondered where they were, (they eventually showed up), but television became my enemy, newspapers are now a thing of the past, and I get annoyed at people that try to tell me the bad news that they have seen or read. I feel the sorrow and pain of that day, but the immediate sting of any tragedy.

    Great post! Thank you for sharing yourself so openly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly for your response! I suppose the voyage of self discovery can be rather harsh at times; but though the road may offer it’s share of pain and challenges, the trip is always worth the sacrifice. I’ve written a lot about such journeys, and my goal is to share (not preach) with others the advantages of taking such risks. With this knowledge in place, is there nowhere we can allow ourselves permission to go?

      Like

  2. I don’t find anything offensive. The closest I would come to that attitude would be to say I might find something boring or uninteresting. In any case, I am always at least curious as to the viewpoints of others. What makes your observation scary about tragedy improving our nature is that if this is indeed true, then the opposite must also be true. When all is well and peaceful we will inevitably revert to the more barbaric state of animalistic nature, namely the four “f’s,” fight, flight, food, and procreation. Nothing says “let’s abandon the spiritual and embrace the material” like these pursuits do. The comfort level of these needs being met blinds us to the suffering of others and focuses everything on self. Hitler knew this all too well. Make the population comfortable and they won’t bother to disrupt or risk their own lifestyle by helping someone else. Sorry to digress here, but it’s a common and overwhelming problem throughout the world and those who know how to sidestep it’s influence (instinct over intent) I feel also have a moral obligation to show others how to do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t believe “the opposite must also be true.” I do agree that, as you said, humans have animalistic instincts. However, because the human being is inherently imbued with a soul, I believe that the human being also has “spiritual instincts,” so to speak too. I believe this for all animals. If you research animals that “herd” or “swarm,” you’ll see fascinating instinctual behaviors that operate out of a 6th sense of their own. These behaviors are not JUST self-preservation, they’re behaviors intended “for the betterment of the whole,” not just “every being for themselves.” So, basically, I’m agreeing that animals can have less-than-appealing behaviors, but they they ALSO possess remarkably moral behaviors too… and that morality isn’t limited to the HUMAN experience!

      I don’t necessarily believe that if you assert a claim as true, that by default, the opposite must also be true. That’s a logical fallacy. For example, all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. I agree that humans DO deal with issues of complacency or apathy. As you mentioned, if humans unite during tragedy, perhaps when things are going super well, their focus isn’t completely on unity. I can agree with that. We see humans becoming complacent again with the status quo, and then when the NEXT tragedy hits, you see the banding together again.

      I guess what I’m suggesting is that it isn’t so much a BACKSLIDE that we’re seeing as just “another level,” or another layer of the onion. You see tragedy -> unity -> good times -> complacency -> apathy -> tragedy -> unity, over and over again. Still yet, it isn’t a BACKSLIDE, or else we’d be experiencing a repetition of archaic times over and over again. And that’s not what we’re experiencing. We’re experiencing a pattern… but the pattern ITSELF is actually improving and evolving. We used to think an ENTIRE GENDER of human wasn’t legitimate. Women were sub-men. Finally, they overcame that and accepted women as closer to equal. We used to not see an ENTIRE COLOR of skin as legitimate. Blacks weren’t human. Then they finally accepted blacks were human. Then, we used to not see an ENTIRE SEXUAL ORIENTATION as legitimate. Gays are imbalanced/possessed/whatever. Now, we’re seeing it as legitimate.

      My point is, there are waves of PARALLEL issues, but there appears to be an improvement from an entire gender to just skin color, then to sexual orientation. I’m sure we’ll see another stratification variable (ie, religion, politics, socioeconomic status, etc) used against us as well…. in addition to the ones I already listed. I guess, I just feel that the days of the Dark Ages were much worse than today. So, even though we experience complacency in good times, I wouldn’t say that it’s a “backslide” or a reversal of humanity. It’s just another layer of the onion. Humans are born smiling, social creatures. It is LIFE that teaches us that there is difference and lack in the world. Otherwise, we would likely not operate under those presuppositions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m sticking with my opinion for now on the “opposite being true.” I would submit that the opposite statement that “all squares are rectangles” is “all circles are round; or perhaps curved.” I agree all rectangles are not squares, the definition being simply “four parallel sides that meet at 90° angles” AND the definition of round being “any area enclosed that has no angles or straight lines.” So….. not all “round” objects are circles either. Most of what we think of opposite is actually not; north/south, man/woman. heads/tails, black/white, and so on. We label things as such, but really one cannot exist without the other. This philosophy is at the very root of what I believe. I am open to examining other examples.

        Like

        1. I will agree with your statement that examples of opposites that we use are in fact NOT opposites! It’s possible that I may end up agreeing with your statement of “the opposite must be true” after more introspection! I certainly can see how squares and rectangles might not actually be “opposites,” if you think about it in another way. I can believe that “up” and “down” are opposites, and the phrase, “what goes up, must come down,” DOES fit with your statement about opposites.

          I think I know where my hang-up is….. because as I write, my thoughts are churning 100mph, haha! I think MY issue is that I actually have a “problem” with the word opposite in GENERAL. I see the world more in terms of DICHOTOMIES than opposites. If you look up the definition of those 2 words, you’ll see a “square vs rectangle” debate again. All opposites (“contrary or adverse”) ARE dichotomies, but not all dichotomies (“division into two pairs”) are opposites. I suppose I see this physical world in terms of “contrast,” or “to compare in order to show differences.” I see this 3D physical experience as our opportunity as soulful creators to tell the Universe more about itself. When we live this physical life, we are learning what we like and don’t like, and telling the Universe to create what is WANTED, and not what is unwanted. I think of the idea of wanted vs. unwanted, as a contrast. However, I don’t conceive of this contrast of wanted vs. unwanted as being OPPOSITE. I see it as being dichotomous.

          For example, we can choose a pairing such as parenthood….. I can want to be a parent and NOT want to NOT be a parent. On the surface, parenthood vs. non-parenthood can look opposite. You can have kids or not have kids. But the “why” part of this debate is deeper than surface level, and is the crux of our decisionmaking. The “why” IS the true want vs. unwant. I want to be a parent, because I want to further my creation process. I don’t want to be a parent, because I highly value my sleep, haha. So here, what is wanted is creation, and what is unwanted is lack of sleep. Those are contrasting realities, dichotomous in nature, but not opposite in nature.

          I think this is where I was having a mental disconnect from your statement that “the opposite must also be true.” Mentally, I am prone to over-analyzing. So, on the surface, when one thinks “opposite,” they may think yin-yang. While I believe in the concept of yin-yang, I view yin-yang as being more of the contrasting pair (“Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (instead of opposing) forces interacting to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts.”)…. like male vs. female. I don’t view yin-yang as “opposite.” But again, that’s more of me just over-analyzing an english word to death than really disagreeing with you.

          If your comment “the opposite must also be true” is your english way of phrasing the yin-yang concept, then you and I are in agreement. Sorry for this highly tangential way of mentally maneuvering, hahaha. I’ve always been like this. I suppose it is both advantageous and disadvantageous!

          Like

  3. I have a completely different view of “why” 9/11 happened (and I’m sure you would find it highly offensive, which is why I won’t go into here… as it’s irrelevant to the point), but I definitely agree with your perspecive of what such traumatic events can do for people. It has been shown, time after time, in both anecdotal AND scientific observations of humanity…. that human behavior IMPROVES in the aftermath of things viewed as tragedy. Tragedy has a way of humbling people……… tearing away their facades…. making it impossible for them to delude themselves into believing the illusion of “separateness” and “difference.”

    Sure, you’ll have the torch bearers that scream, “KILL THE ENEMY!! US VERSUS THEM!!” But more often, under that natural expression of anger that is experienced, you’ll see the unity and connection you mentioned. When people see things so horrific, their desire for peace is AMPLIFIED. You can’t TRULY know/desire peace without the contrast of war. Therefore, I choose to embrace “tragedies” for what they spiritually are – harbingers of desire and catalysts for improvement.

    Also, you’re very right about desensitization. We’re bombarded with negative media so often that, to survive psychologically, one MUST disassociate! There’s no sense in beating yourself up for being someone who realized they were desensitized. It is arguable that 99% of human beings alive are desensitized!! Can you still watch the news? Can you still support the death penalty? Can you still support the punitive model of the justice system? Can you still support the conformist nature of the educational system? Can you still eat animals? Can you still kill “pests”? Can you still pull weeds? I know all of that sounds like “hippie nonsense,” but ultimately……. if you believe in the Universal Law Of Oneness, where you are comprised of the same energy which comprises a fish or flower….. then “killing” of ANY sort is a sensitive event! But…. we are desensitized, because we have to survive. If I didn’t eat animals, I’d still have to eat plants, and I don’t have the time or energy to find ONLY the apples that have ALREADY fallen off the tree, etc, etc, etc.

    It is normal to be desensitized. It is not evil. It’s our self-preservation instinct. The wonderful part about you is that you notice instincts for what they are: a means to stay alive. Therefore, you’ve gained the awareness/insight to realize which of your “desensitized” beliefs you’re STILL holding onto that are NOT serving your life. You’ve got the awareness to see that you can CHOOSE to watch only the footage that makes you feel good, and not the footage that makes you feel bad. YOU’RE IN CONTROL. Therefore, you can re-sensitize yourself to human experience, while also remaining alive. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

I look forward to hearing from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s