Today is September 11, the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the U.S. Like many others, I recall exactly where I was when I heard the news, and remembered thinking, “this changes everything.” A lot has changed in 10 years. My children are now emerging young adults. My parents have gone from vigorous and healthy to fragile and frail. The face in the mirror is a decade older too.
Of course, none of those changes is unexpected. It is the natural order of things. In the world in which our species evolved, we perceived change in the experience of our own growth, maturity, and aging. We watched those near to us live out their lives as we lived out ours. Of course, the unexpected death of a loved one was a personal shock, but mostly our personal lives were lived against the backdrop of cyclic seasonal changes that were predictable and gave the impression of a circular experience of time, of return and familiarity. Of comfort and continuity.
Among the many dissonances of technological industrial civilization is the loss of the experience of the circularity and rhythm of natural time. It feels as though we are shot out of a cannon, flying fast into an unknown future, hardly able to catch our breath. The past 10 years has brought an avalanche of technological, economic, political and psychological changes to those of us who have lived through this time, some connected directly to the events of September 11, and others unrelated. Uncertainty and a constant, low-level anxiety and fear are now our companions.
I cried this morning while listening to the service from Ground Zero broadcast on the radio. The grief felt fresh again, and the intervening 10 years seemed to evaporate. Later, as the day wore on, I found myself wanting to ground myself in the more natural rhythms of late summer in Pennsylvania. I sat on the porch and listened to the crickets. I watched as a thunderstorm passed by a few miles north of here. I closed my eyes, and for a moment, I was lost in the deeper rhythms playing all around me. Goldenrod blossoms, billowing clouds, insect chirps, skittering chipmunks…
I cannot eliminate the arrow-straight linear movement of change as it is perceived in our time, just as I cannot undo the events of 10 years ago. But I can step back into the circle, if only for a moment.