In our most recent letter, we quoted from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and invited you to reflect on what your personal "I Have A Dream" speech might contain. As we approach the anniversary tomorrow of our country's tragic experience on 9/11 ten years ago, it seems appropriate to continue considering the question of our dreams. I think it safe to assume that all of us yearn for peace, and profoundly lament the tragic loss of life ten years ago. It seems inconceivable that over 3,000 Americans began their day as any other, only to lose their lives in the senseless act perpetrated by extremist fanatics. In the ensuing years, our country's engagement in its "war on terrorism" and "Operation Enduring Freedom" with the end result of the deaths of an additional 6,236 Americans serving in the military, and over 10,000 Iraqi ISF, and 50,152 Iraqi civilians. I can't seem to locate a count of Afghani civilian causalities....but we can imagine.
The question for me is: Can we imagine a different kind of response rather than meeting aggression with aggression; violence with violence? I have been so moved by the story of two widows from this area (Patti Quigley of Wellesley and Susan Retik of Needham) whose husbands died in the attacks on 9/11. These women were each pregnant during their time of loss and in their time of great need were amazed by the support, emotional, financial and otherwise which sustained them and helped them to cope. In the midst of their grief, they had the heart to imagine what it must be like for widows in Afghanistan, and they appreciated that these women would be in far more dire circumstances than they, and from their imaginings founded a non-profit, traveled to Afghanistan, which has made an enormous difference in the lives of a number of Afghani widows and their children. Their story is one among many who share how they began to live differently after this tragic event in their lives. All because people allowed themselves to imagine a different road to peace! The way to peace in our world begins with each of us....with our hearts being opened to 'being' in a new way.
The search for a peaceful way of being is as old as humankind. Conflict has always been a part of the human condition. One thing is clear. The path to peace has to begin with each of us "imagining" and living out of our dream for peace. Joan Chittister's writing this week on "Spiritual Imagination" offers a reflection on Benedict's dream of world peace. It provides us with a 'recipe' for nurturing and feeding our imagination.
Over the archway of every medieval monastery were carved the words, Pax Intrantibus, "Peace to those enter here."
The words were both a hope and a promise. In a culture struggling with social chaos, Benedict sketched out a blueprint for world peace. He laid a foundation for a new way of life, the ripples of which stretched far beyond the first monastery arch, to every culture and continent from one generation to another, from that era to this one, from his time and now to ours. To us.
That is our legacy, our mandate, our mission—as alive today as ever, more in need in today's nuclear world than ever before.
Benedictine peace, however, is not simply a commitment to the absence of war. It is, as well, the presence of a lifestyle that makes war unacceptable and violence unnecessary. Even if we dismantled all the war machines of the world tomorrow, it would be no guarantee that we would have peace. The armies of the world simply demonstrate the war that is going on in our souls, the restlessness of the enemy within us, the agitation of the human condition gone awry.
To all these things we need to bring our own world—new spiritual imagination. Imagine a world where people choose their work according to the good it will do for the poorest of the poor—because they saw it in us.
Imagine a world where holy leisure, spiritual reflection rather than political expedience began to determine everything we do as a nation—because they saw it in us.
Imagine a world where the care of the earth became a living, breathing, determining goal in every family, every company, every life we touch—because they saw it in us.
Imagine a world devoted to becoming a community of strangers that crosses every age level, every race, every tradition, every difference on the globe—because they saw it in us.
Imagine a world where humble listening to the other became more important than controlling them—because people saw it in us.
Imagine a world where what makes for peace becomes the foundation of every personal, corporate, national decision—because they were called to it by us.
Let us resolve again to follow the fiery-eyed radical Benedict of Nursia whose one life illuminated the western world. Let us, in other words, live Benedictine spirituality and illuminate our own darkening but beautiful world.
– from Radical Christian Life: A Year with Benedict by Joan Chittister
As we re-member the events of September 11, 2001, let us re-commit to finding ways of being peace in our personal and communal lives. We can make a difference, and if we don't we can imagine the consequences. We've experienced the horror of terrorism, our world is desperate for a new model. Let us imagine together the difference we can be as we deepen our personal experience of 'being peace'!
Jean & Ron