Sunday, September 11, 2011

on the anniversary of 9/11/2001

On the morning of September 11, 2001, when the terrorists drove their planes into the twin towers in New York, and into the Pentagon in Washington, DC., I was a new teacher in a new program in a new high school expansion of the Clear Spring School.

That morning, as we arrived at school, and as students were gathering, news was happening fast. Was it an accident? A second plane struck and we knew it was not. We really had no idea at the time, how terrible the tragedy would become. But it became apparent we were not at school for a normal week. There were things happening that put us all at a high level of anxiety and deep concern. This week, in the US, 9/11 is in the news again as we face the 10th anniversary and new terror threats. And so my own mind journeys back not only to 9/11 on a national scale, but a more personal one as well.

This week I've also been discussing the therapeutic effects of woodworking. Woodworking makes us feel better. When we witness things coming together in our own hands, we sense our own power to put difficult things in their places, to restore control, and to get a better sense of our own place in the vast scheme of things.

As we had each witnessed the destruction of the World Trade Center site, I asked my high school students to make a model of what they were seeing on the news. My intent was to find some way to process what we were seeing through the power of our own hands, to do something active and cleansing with our bodies in response to the horrifying images. It was a form of therapy. As rescuers were combing wreckage, we took slender strips of wood, and used wire and nails to build a form that could then be burned in ceremony. It was not a happy thing. It was an expression of grief. But to act upon what we feel is an essential thing, and it is tragic that we are too often deprived the powers of physical response to what we see, sense and feel. Television has made us and our children bystanders to things beyond our comprehension and beyond our capacities to control.

I invited the local fire department to be on hand to watch over the ceremonial burning, and they brought their boots to gather contributions for their fallen associates.

We've not done so well as a nation over the last ten years. It took 9 and one half years to bring Bin Laden to justice, and we have been in two protracted wars brought on by a sense of revenge as much as for justice. Innocent lives have been lost in numbers far greater than those on that fateful day. One of those wars was completely irresponsible and unwarranted. The toll has been enormous in lives lost, lives altered in ways that have brought tragedy home to every American community. There have been so many lost opportunities to bring economic change to other nations, and so many lost economic opportunities in our own.

I've been talking with a professor from a university who has been given the task of starting a new art therapy program. I was asked to help in conversation to describe the values of woodworking on the most personal levels. There are two components to art therapy. One is that in doing art, the patient has a non-verbal means of communicating with the therapist, opening opportunities for dialog and opening doors to understanding of self. We can call this the interpretive function of art therapy. The other aspect of art therapy is more active in that it allows the patient to regain a sense of control over his or her own life, and to re-imagine self as creator and craftsman. One of the most tragic effects of our response to 9/11 is the huge number of returning vets who have been damaged in body and spirit by the effects of war. The university program has been made necessary by the need to serve these vets through the creation of art.

This morning, watching ceremonies in honor of 9/11 I was touched by a song performed by James Taylor, Close Your Eyes. It is about moving on, and was a clear expression of how the arts can heal. In fact, there is no real healing without the arts, and those untrained in the arts will find other more damaging responses to tragic events.

Bless us.

Let us move on creatively from this day forward. Let's use our hands to put things in their best places, and make the best of ourselves and our nation.

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said. May we manage to move on and make a better world.

Mario