Friday, September 16, 2011

Ten Years After

As the ten-year commemoration of 09/11 begins to fade away, I would like to share something that I wrote a couple of months after that event that still rings true to me today, ten years later:

            Concerning September 11, there certainly is a lot to sort through. It was so shocking, amazing, and surreal. After that first wave was over, my reaction was just to “carry on”. I just have a few basic thoughts and observations. One theme that has kept with me is that our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness: freedom. It is what we cherish most, and what we flaunt most. I know that this “enemy” we are dealing with is founded in religious fascism with which there seems to be no room for compromise or negotiation. But this fascism has gained momentum not through promoting its message of what it stands for, which is ludicrous on its face, but what it stands against, which is the unfettered consumerism, materialism, and amorality which has come to epitomize the American way of life. 

            What was quite striking to me after September 11, was that for a whole week, all of the crass commercialism that has crept into every corner of our lives came to a screeching halt, and yet life went on. All of the commercials in all of the media were muted. It was eerie but actually quite pleasant. And then in the weeks that followed, as we returned more to “normal”, the commercialism started creeping back, with a new and bizarre message. Consumerism is now being equated with patriotism and freedom. It has become so evident that the economic well-being of our country is tied to extravagant consumption. Which leads to my next theme. 

            America is loved and hated throughout the world because of our strengths and weaknesses. Democracy and freedom are ideals that most of the world at least aspires to. Why they need to be so closely wedded to numbing commercialism and excessive consumption is another question. America is resented throughout the world because of our relentless materialistic imperialism that seeks to implant itself and its mindset into every corner of the world, and hardly to its betterment. The triumph of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola does not equate to a heightened civilization and is not to the betterment of the quality of life in the world.  Resentment is a powerful emotion, and our fascist enemies can use it to garner support in their crusade against the Western “infidels”. 

            Before September 11, we were wobbling because we were so out of balance.  Weaknesses were showing up in the functioning of the FBI, our premier law enforcement agency, the issues concerning our last election exposed embarrassing weaknesses to our very ideals and system of democracy, Columbine, parents murdering their children, a political system with partisanship paramount. One positive outcome of September 11 is that it will take a while for the partisan bickering to rear its ugly head. But in the unification that has emerged, these other serious questions have been deflected. Nobody is considering that maybe we shouldn’t be going back to “business as usual” because “business as usual” wasn’t so great. We’re all trying to go back to how it was, with just a new layer of heightened vigilance and security underlying a new sense of insecurity and vulnerability. September 11 shook our national psyche because we were so complacent in our sense of security and material well-being. That was a sense of security that many in the rest of the world never had to begin with, but we could never appreciate that. 

            A client of mine from Bangladesh pointed this out to me. He said in Bangladesh, abject poverty, insecurity, and death are everywhere all of the time, but Americans aren’t used to these conditions so close to home, while a good deal of the rest of the world deals with it on a daily basis. Foreigners like him come to America for the promise of material well-being we present, but at the same time, they resent us because of our material shallowness. 

            We must resist fascism of any sort, but that does not mean that we must promote excessive consumerism as the favored ends to democracy and freedom. Self-interest must be tempered with selflessness. Maybe it was too cynical and too anemic in its approach, but perhaps George Bush, Sr. was hitting upon something when he promoted “A Thousand Points of Light” and George Bush, Jr. with his “compassionate conservatism”. There is no doubt to me that we need further illumination and compassion, not through hollow demagoguery, but through an awakening and deepening of genuine spirituality.

            May we all find the proper balance and inner strength to get through these difficult and challenging times.


No comments:

Quote of the Week 381 - Heaven

Heaven is all round,

Translated to sound.

--Michael Hedges



Announcing Publication of New Book, DIMENSIONS: Navigation the Spiritual Spectrum

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book, DIMENSIONS: Navigating the Spiritual Spectrum, now available at Amazon, in paperback print and Kindle versions. It is easily found by searching my name, or by searching the full title and subtitle. You can also click on the image of the book in the right hand column of this blog.

What a great way to start the New Year, cozying up to a fire, real or imagined, and reading a new spiritually inspiring book, sure to become a classic!

DIMENSIONS: Navigating the Spiritual Spectrum

Grounded in the traditions of Torah and Veda, Steven J. Gold takes us on an oceanic tour of the depth and breadth of spiritual consciousness. Sharing personal stories and insights into various traditional scriptures as examples, he urges us to adopt a spiritual worldview, to “ponder infinity, awake and arise,” to “find your inspiration and follow it.”

“The chapters…are records of what happens when Steve’s right mind, and heart, are given full freedom to wander where they wish. As discoveries and correlations are made, his well-trained left mind and sharp wit give his observations shape and form…” – Brother Shankara, Resident Minister, Vedanta Center of Atlanta

“Universal Ice Cream: Dive deep into Steve’s wonderful book to help find your favorite flavor on the Spiritual Spectrum.” – Rabbi Mitch Cohen, Spiritual Leader, Congregation Shalom B’Harim, Dahlonega, GA

“Steven J. Gold’s Dimensions is an exploration of spirituality from the inside out. If you are looking for a guide through the pathless land of truth, read this book.” – Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of The World Wisdom Bible

Interfaith/Inter-Spiritual Contemplative Groups

Please check out the following, which is an ongoing activity that may be of interest: