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              Thursday, October 11 2001 

Awakening

Yesterday, I recounted the story of my brother Gary's brush with death when he was five years old and his apparent being granted a longer, though still short, lifespan in response to the prayers of those who commended him to God in childhood. To those whose thinking is "modern" or skeptical and inclined to dismiss such a claim as superstitious or religious fantasy, all I'll say is it doesn't matter; if you have to assume the same approach to what I'm saying as you would for a typical work of fiction or watching a television cops show, please do so for the sake of getting to my larger point.

I introduced three threads that were left untied at the end of yesterday's entry.

1. Seeing the near-death of my four-years-older brother in new light more than 55 years after the fact was an effect of reflecting on the September 11 attack on our nation and, especially, responses it inspired among Americans.

2. The part of prayer in Gary's recovery from near-fatal burns deserves additional consideration.

3. Those events shed new understanding on my parents' lives and how they raised Gary and me.

Greater minds than mine teach in every world culture and era that interpreting life as "meaningful," in a philosopical or psychological sense, requires a spiritual or transcendent interpretive matrix. This is why most peoples in history have had religion. More words have been exchanged about the "meaning" of the events of September 11 and subequently in the month since it in all American communications media ranging from the New York Times to Internet chat rooms than normally occur in a year or, more likely, even a decade. To ask, "where was God in this awful set of events" is another way of saying, "what does it mean," and vice versa. Traditional biblical religion and even some pagan philosophies (pre-Christian Rome's, for example) always respond to national catastrophies as causes for repentance, turning to God or "the gods" with renewed minds and spirits.

I think we've all been impressed by the outpouring of charitable giving and expressions of solidarity with the victims, their families, and the heroes who gave their lives to save others after the attacks. Giving money has been the most widespread tangible way of helping, followed by giving blood and volunteering to work at the disaster scenes. Patriotic fervor, displaying the nation's colors, sharing tears and prayers have been the almost universal intangible expressions. Our national response to the catastrophe has changed us all, probably as much as the attacks and the subsequent declarations of war themselves. Millions have learned to cry, to pray, and give alms to new levels in response to the catastrophe, and a consequence of that is a greater appreciation for and feeling of solidarity with our neighbors and fellow Americans. Judy Rose's photo on the autumn colors slideshow connected to this site, of "patriots in Colver," could have been taken a mile from where I work in California, or probably a mile from just about anywhere in the country at this time.

Considering all these effects of the attack made me look for other examples of selfless neighborly concern in my memory, and although I wasn't old enough to appreciate it when it happened, I grew up hearing about the kindness of strangers—neighbors—when Gary was hospitalized with his burns and in need of many blood tranfusions. Realizing a connection with that took me to the two other as-yet untied threads, which I'll take up tomorrow.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Bragging rights

Three boys in the schoolyard were bragging about their fathers.

The first boy said, "My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, they give him $50."

The second boy says, "That's nothing. My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a song, they give him $100."

The third boy says, "I got you both beat. My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon. And it takes eight people to collect all the money!"

Sent by Joe Pelayo

On following fashion

When it comes to religion, the crowds are always wrong. At any time there are a few who see, and the rest are blinded. To stand by the truth of God against the current religious vogue is always unpopular and may be downright dangerous....

—A. W. Tozer

Sent by Jim Martin

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