Where were you on that date? There are certain dates that most, if not all, people who were alive and more than a few years old, remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. In my lifetime, the first such date was the assassination of JFK (initials are all that are necessary). I was coming home after school, living in Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan. Then there was the landing of the first men. on the moon. There are some other dates that stand out during my life – like the election of Donald J Trump as President of the United States. However, the one that is most prominent in my mind happened 22 years ago today. It is a date that doesn’t require a year. It is just September 11th. That now has the shorthand of 9-11 which is telling.
For me it is particularly poignant because it was my first day at Huron University College in London Ontario, as I embarked on a journey which would lead to my ordination as an Anglican priest. After my class was finished, I went over to the student centre at the University of Western Ontario – as it was then known (now just Western U.) In the common area I noticed that everyone – and there were many people gathered – were completely mesmerized looking at the TV monitors suspended from the ceiling. As I looked up, I saw that it was what turned out to be a live picture of the Twin Towers in New York. As I looked a plane flew into one of the towers. It turned out to be the second plane. That was a momentous and tragic beginning to my formal theological education which has continued in one way or another – formally and informally - to this day.
I imagine that most, if not all of you, remember the circumstances when you heard the news. In my view this is probably the most significant event in our lifetime and probably beyond. One reason for that is the almost complete reordering of the world since that day: the Iraq war, the reality of Global Warming Crisis, the pervasiveness of social media, the lack of trust in our institutions, COVID, the crisis of refugees at the borders of Western Countries, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and even the return of inflation. September 11 seems to mark the beginning of the remaking the world so that it is in many ways a completely different one from that pre-9-11 world.
The question that I believe we all face is, how do we respond to this not so brave new world that we find ourselves living in? Many of us are in survival mode. We are hunkering down and hoping the next big change doesn’t overwhelm us. I recently ventured into the AI world of ChatGPT after resisting that next new thing. I was amazed at how it responded and the speed in which it responded to my request; a 500-word essay on The Jungian Collective Shadow. I used some of the response in formulating one of the editions of these missives. The potential for this development - probably for better and worse - staggers my imagination. I want to cry out – the robots are taking over! Perhaps we all should listen to the warning of Robbie the Robot, “Danger Will Robinson.”
When it comes to change, I think of the joke, how many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb? Answer, we don’t change, we’re Anglicans. That now applies to all of us. Change will happen to us whether we want to or not. How are we going to respond to the change? Even we Anglicans are being dragged kicking and screaming into realizing we must change. I don’t have any real answers - probably no one has the one easy answer that we would all like. However, one possibility is to embrace hope. I think of the wonderful response by the people of Gander Newfoundland to 9-11 and the commercial planes that were diverted to that airport in response to 9-11. It was memorialized in that wonderful musical, Come From Away. They could have turned their backs and said it’s just too much and anyway its not my problem. But they didn’t and their response resonates to this day. That gives me hope for the future – the ability of the human spirit to respond with love.
Hope is today's word of the day from the Society of St. John the Evangelist:
To be patient means to tolerate or endure discomfort and suffering without denying them. Feel the pain, express it, groan, and then look beyond. Trust that God is both real and active. Hope acknowledges the present suffering while also believing in what lies beyond it. Br. Luke Ditewig, SSJE
May you have hope on your journey in this brave new world.