As a kid I grew up knowing that every box by the side of the road, every strange parked car, could be a fiery gift left by fanatics. But what happened on September 11 was beyond anything that seemed possible. This kind of thing happened “elsewhere”, and the mindset of the people involved seemed to come from an “elsewhen” – as if the enlightenment had not happened and people still viewed the world as the play-thing of distant, but still persuadable, gods.
I do not think that the response to these attacks should be tied to any country, creed, religion or flag – it should grow out of a personal commitment by all of us to do good and to challenge simple minded solutions and violence wherever they are found. Surely, if we are honest, we can do better for the world and its people than we have managed to do to this point. What could we achieve if all the talent, energy, skill and bravery that was shown on the terrible day, and in the days that have followed, had been turned into something other than war?
What would have happened if we had spent the last ten years arming people with knowledge and a real sense of possibility rather than with guns and bombs? How many of the “best and the brightest” can we afford to lose? Each time a person dies a small strand in the great web of the unknowable possibilities of the world breaks with them. “How would life have ever been the same if this wall had carved in it one less name?” as it has been said in a way that I could never manage.
It is spring in Australia, a season of growth and reconnection. If we refuse to tolerate intolerance and if we admit that well educated children are the hope of the world, then maybe, just maybe, the next ten years will be better than the last.
I am posting two pictures of New York – both from 1995. I arrived in the city by water, although I am not able to explain how this can be true. The skyline of the city was lit up with search lights flashing from helicopters and the roads were full of the flashing lights of police cars. It looked like some future, imagined city. It looked like a scene from Blade Runner. I had managed to arrive at the same time as the Pope. This was not a good plan. I walked the streets seeing things in real life that I had only seen on TV. My neck grew stiff from looking up at the towers that seemed to climb impossibly from the streets. The buildings were bigger than anything I had ever seen. The portions of food were bigger than anything I had ever seen as well!
I sat in café’s full of police officers dressed in what seemed to be TV costumes – but it was real. I was on the way to Australia to start a new life. Although I did not know it then this has led to two red-headed children, marriage and a new life. Like many others before me, I passed though New York on the way to somewhere better.
That’s how I remember New York : as a gateway to the unknown possibility of the future.
You can find more places from around the world here at Our World Tuesday.
(And it has just occurred to me that the shift to the collective “Our World” from the singular “My world” seems to the kind of change I’m talking about and hoping for.)