“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds
and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.
But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.
And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
For the last six years I’ve been agonizing over an idea I have come to call “The Bowing Project.” Each year as the anniversary of the World Trade center tragedy nears, the pressure to follow through intensifies, but so far I’ve managed to reason my way out of acting on it.
It began shortly after the attack. During the sleepless months that followed, I found myself wishing I could take some action. After all, the hijackers were doing just that. They articulated in no uncertain terms in the most personal manner, their view of reality. What then, would be the most appropriate, concrete personal response? An eloquent enough expression of having received the hard-won teachings of that day? After each devastating headline or anthrax scare I wished I could be brave enough to go to a public place and bow. I wanted to bow to the Power of Good; acknowledge that the impulse to seek revenge and the desire to hurt others continues to course through my own all-too-human heart in spite of years of mental detox and shelves full of self-help books. I wanted to engage in conversation about this desire -to- destroy. I wanted to understand it more deeply, to see it, feel it, and keep choosing not to act on it.
Six years seems like a long enough gestation. So as the next step in the evolution of this project I intend to be at Ground Zero next Tuesday with a sign that reads:
I bowto thePower of Goodinmeand
and begin bowing at 8:46 AM, EDT the time that the first hijacked passenger jet, American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston, Massachusetts, crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center, and tore a gaping hole in the building setting it on fire.
I also intend to continue bowing in a public place on the eleventh day of each month throughout the year. If you’re in the neighborhood, feel free to come by and say hello, or come and bow with me.
The intention of the Bowing Project is to increase awareness of what, for me, is an essential step toward honoring the lives of the women, men, and children, killed six years ago.
We can blame presidents, governments, the military industrial complex or Osama. And admittedly they might have a hand in what happened. But the frustrated, trigger-happy orphan crouched in the corner of our hearts co-creates all that is: in our own lives and in the world. Granting that orphan compassionate permission to speak his or her twisted truth—plays a key role in correcting our collective errors.
The sages of our wisdom traditions teach that the healing that becomes possible in a life crisis is always in direct proportion to the magnitude of the crisis. The legacy of 9/11 could become a giant forward-leap in human awareness, but it can’t happen without our active participation.
The Bowing Project will also involve a co-creation of a support community for individual peace-enhancing endeavors. Announcements about events will be posted on the home page. For the time being, we’re adding a new forum on the message board for discussion and feedback.
Though I’m a little shaky about articulating all of this, and not at all sure what it’ll feel like to pack up my sign and catch an early train to the city on Tuesday, I’m glad to have finally taken the next step, and hope this note initiates a useful dialogue.
After last September
A boy in my daughter’s preschool
only in his dreams,
and his dreams.
His mother tells me
how one day
in early May
he came to her
You know Mom,
sometimes I forget.
So I dress for success today
surrender my bleach-stained sweatshirt
for something neat and buttoned
and stand on this corner
learning to pray;
the next boy in line
to shield the next father of boys
to shield my life
and everyone in it.
To mould my fear into
something solid and useful.
J. I., May 2002, New York City