Today marks the eleven-year anniversary of the tragic events of September 11th, when nearly 3,000 people were killed as a result of four separate airline hijackings by al-Qaeda terrorists. The two planes that crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City both departed from Logan Airport in Boston. Coincidentally, I flew out of Logan Airport yesterday after teaching a workshop at North End Yoga in Boston. Happily, I made it home without incident. September 11th, 2001 also fell on a Tuesday. I was just preparing to teach my 7am class when one of my students came in and told me two planes had crashed into the Twin Towers and another into the Pentagon. It seemed inconceivable that such a thing could be happening in the good old US of A, where I had grown up with such a feeling of security and order. I had been planning a trip to New York City on Thursday September 13th to see Guruji. Now New York was in flames and the whole country had been plunged into chaos. My wife, Carol, was eight months pregnant at the time, and, under the circumstances, we decided it was best for me not to go. Guruji kept teaching in New York of course. Ironically, September 11th was Sarasvati’s birthday. Someone reminded me recently that after the events of 9/11, Guruji introduced the chanting of the Mangala Mantra at the end of class—a prayer for the welfare of all sentient beings.
The events of 9/11 changed our world forever. In the Tarot deck, card number sixteen of the Major Arcana is called The Tower. Traditionally this card depicts a tower being struck by lightning and a human being falling through space. This card indicates that the arrogance and pretension of material life may be torn apart in an instant by some act of fate. The lesson imparted is that believing in the illusion of material power can only end in spiritual isolation, stagnation, and collapse. Even as we fall, however, the power that floods our senses with pain also cleanses and burns away our illusions. Originally, Osama Bin Laden denied that al-Qaeda was responsible for the attacks, but later took responsibility for them. He justified the attacks as retaliation for U. S. support of Israel, the presence of U. S. troops in the “Holy Land” of Saudi Arabia, and Economic sanctions against Iraq. When Sadam Hussein heard of the events of 9/11 he reportedly said, “Those cowboys had it coming!” A few months later the U.S. invaded Iraq and began a war that would last nearly a decade, cost the taxpayers one trillion dollars, and take the lives of over 4,000 American soldiers and as many as 600,000 Iraqi soldiers and civilians. Another direct result of 9/11 was the war in Afghanistan, which continues to this day and has taken the lives of over 1,000 American soldiers and 15,000 Afghan civilians as well as thousands of Afghan soldiers. Mahatma Ghandi once said, “If we practice the philosophy of an eye for an eye, soon the whole world will be blind.” During the eight years of the Bush administration and his policy of “Cowboy Politics” the perception of the United States in the international community reached an all time low, based on my conversations with people as I traveled through many countries. During the Obama administration our reputation throughout the world is slowly on the rise because he is perceived as a man of peace, who believes in and practices diplomacy, and who has empathy and makes a sincere effort to understand others’ point of view. Obama’s quality of empathy, which some of his detractors label as ’’weakness”, is important if we desire to avoid another 9/11. I just don’t see much empathy in Mr. Romney, someone accustomed to hostile takeovers without batting an eye.