Everyone Has A 9/11 Story

Sixteen years after the worst terrorist attack on American soil, and the world is still as dangerous and violent as ever. So few problems have been solved. So many seem to pop up by the day.

It’s almost as if violence and bloodshed, hatred and division, are indelible parts of the human condition. Who knew?

I was going to write about some negative aspects of 9/11, things people have said to me, and so forth. But then I realized, why dwell on the negative? Today we commemorate one of the most negative days in American history. I’d rather not add to it.

That’s why these kinds of commemorations–even dumb blog posts–are important. A whole generation born after 9/11 or too young to remember is now entering adulthood. It’d be tragic if these stories were lost, the event downplayed, or worse, trivialized and forgotten.

Remember the fallen and the survivors, remember the heroes, and remember our enemies. Just remember.

And listen. Everyone has a 9/11 story the way our ancestors had Civil War stories and Jim Crow stories and Depression stories and Pearl Harbor stories and civil rights stories and Vietnam stories. We all need an ear to listen, not for our own vanity, but so we never forget.

It’s cathartic. The rituals and reverence ensure that we take certain things seriously, which in the world of snark and smirking detachment we’re all occupying is more vital than ever.

So what’s my 9/11 story? Continue reading “Everyone Has A 9/11 Story”

Rituals and Reverence

One interesting thing about age is that the more you live, the more you start thinking and believing the opposite of what you used to. 

Take me, for instance. I used to think rituals and reverence were silly, relics of a bygone age. And mind you, I grew up, and remain in, the Greek Orthodox Church. This is a denomination dripping with rituals and reverence. 

Us being Orthodox, we can’t just, say, read from the Gospel: We have to have a huge, gold-encrusted book that gets ma dyed around the church, complete with intense. And then we sing about it.  

And don’t get me started with the ceremony surrounding the entrance and blessing of the Holy Gifts. 

And so, when I was in my late teens and trying on the atheist hat (it didn’t fit), I found all of this pomp a rich target for mockery. 

And maybe it is.

But the older I get–and the more (kind of) serious I get–I appreciate the rituals and the ceremony more and more. 

I thought of this in church recently with my own son, who managed to somehow sit through the service the way I somehow used to with my own family. 

Not that there isn’t a lot to keep your attention: Orthodox churches are painted with vivid iconography, the clergy wears elaborate shimmering vestments, there is mysterious Byzantine chanting, and the smell of incense permeates the entire building. 

In short, both the physical space and rituals are impossible to ignore. 

And then I got to thinking why the church draws me in more as I get older. I think it fills a need that much in modern life doesn’t. 

It provides seriousness. It provides awe. It provides reverence. 

All of these things are in short supply everywhere. We–and you bet your ass I’m including myself here–are flippant, we are sarcastic and irreverent, we take particular pride in being iconoclasts, poking our finger in the eye of all things establishment. 

And we never, ever, take anything seriously. 

So church then scratches an itch for me that I couldn’t easily name, and that’s the desire to take something seriously. Without somehow feeling awkward about it. 

And lest you think this is a purely religious thing, rituals help foster an air of important to secular things as well. Look no farther than militaries through history…the rites, the traditions, the somatic markers.  They get it. 

Athletics are rife with ritual. So is the Anglo-American court system. And don’t even get me started on martial arts or I could write a whole other post.  Continue reading “Rituals and Reverence”