Through the Valley of Darkness

A Perspective on How to Handle the
World Trade Center Tragedy

One of the greatest acts of violence of our era came to pass this day. Thousands of people going about their lives were murdered today in a heinous terrorist act in Manhattan, a few miles from where I sit. Questions like Why, Who, How, and What’s Next fill our minds and trouble our hearts. The issue at hand is how each of us will chose to move through this collective horror. Everyone I know will know someone killed or injured in the attack. Emotions of grief, anger and fear vie for our attention. A collective shock permeates our nation. Many will be tempted to live their lives in ever-greater fear and dread. But there is another option. How can we be successful in moving through this unthinkable apocalypse in a creative and generative way?

Many will cry for something to be done. Solutions that work come from above the level of the problem. Trying to solve the obvious and shocking security issues with more police, more FBI, more weapons, a move toward a police state, enhanced airport security—will at best yield temporary results. A better mousetrap inevitably leads to a smarter mouse. We see this pattern in other areas of life. Greater computer security generates more cunning hackers. Car alarms and security give rise to more deft car thieves. And so on.

Throughout history, violence in response to violence has always failed to end violence. Solutions at the same level as the problem are inherently ineffective. We all now have a choice. After our grief, loss and sadness have passed, we can choose to allow this event to cause us to close our hearts in fear and hatred. Or we can decide to open our hearts in love and compassion. This second alternative has never been tried on a mass scale. Individually, most of us have seen in our lives how love transforms and heals lives and relationships. That same potential exists for our nation and world. I, you, can choose to let the World Trade Center attack inspire us to live in such a way that we create a world in which this can never happen again. As you and I begin to live lives more motivated by love, creating peace, bringing compassion and forgiveness into our relationships day-to-day, then inevitably our collective experience will be transformed and renewed.

That will take work. The first order of business is to deeply feel what we feel—the shock, horror, sadness, outrage, frustration, terror, fear—all of it. Our city and nation would be well served by a national day of mourning, to honor those lost and those who survived; to acknowledge how deeply we have been wounded; to hold each other with mercy in our pain.

Violence in our world starts as violence in our thoughts and hearts. Hatred without is born from hatred within. The end of hatred and violence in our world can only come as I, as you, expose, face and heal through those shadows within us. The deep work of honoring our pain can lead to deep questions. What prejudice, judgement and hatred do I hold in my heart? How can I feel these feelings without letting them run me? What “dark elements” within myself do I hide, repress or deny? How does fear govern my thoughts and feelings? How can I live in such a way that I help create a world of peace? Who do I need to forgive, including myself, so that I can heal and become a more stable and peaceful presence in my world? These questions, and others, are doors to our becoming more loving, profound and peaceful people in whose presence the world is transformed.

To paraphrase a sacred text, “The generation that will bring peace to the world is not the generation that hates war, but the generation that loves peace.” As we face squarely the same fear and hatred in our own hearts that was present in the terrorists who attacked America today, our world will change in ways we have not yet conceived, to become a world in which such a tragedy can simply not occur. The choice is ours. One will lead us to individual and collective lives of greater ignorance, turmoil and chaos. The other will lift us to lives of brilliance, joy and peace. It comes down to you and me, today and in the days ahead. I pray that we walk the path of victory, fulfillment and love.

Michael Gaeta
Hands-On Health Wholistic Center / Acupuncture Society of New York
Kew Gardens, New York City
11 September 2001
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