Ground Zero: Out of Darkness UPDATED

My column at First Things is not meant to rile anyone, but I am sure some will be riled and for that I am sorry:

At the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Robert Kennedy—finding kinship with a doomed heroine of fiction—referenced the loss of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, by quoting Shakespeare’s Juliet:

When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.

During the wake and funeral of my own beloved brother, that imagery kept bubbling up through my awareness, and it comforted me. I thought the lines struck a keen balance, expressing love, transcendence, and a kind of optimism in the assurances of a twinkling eternity. Because we know we will never be in love with night, Juliet’s fancy brings a great depth of human feeling right up to the precipice of sentimental overreach, but—pretty consolations aside—do not send it over the ledge, and into a crashing descent of self-indulgence wallowing.

As I watched the 9/11 Memorial Service at Ground Zero, I couldn’t help wondering—a decade after that unprecedented attack—are we holding too closely to our grief, allowing ourselves to entertain it beyond a point that is healthy—and in danger of falling in love with the dark?

Read the whole thing. I’ll be interested in reading your thoughts.

Meanwhile, over on the portal landing page, Tim Muldoon looks at Remembering the dead, as an act of faith

There is something of God in our ability to remember the dead. Memory serves very little evolutionary purpose, save perhaps the function of knowing which species might prove a danger to human life. But memory of the dead is of an altogether different category, and is the most ancient and yet still most contemporary dimension of our religious imagination: that is, the root of our wondering about the meaning of life, the possibility of life after death, and the possibility that there are good and evil in the world.

UPDATED: This had to hurt

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • george

    Well Anchoress, today’s meditation in the Magnificat suggests St. John Chrysostom would heartily approve of your post. Let us not be overwhelmed by our grief!

  • Greta

    This is only 10 years on something that impacted the lives of every American. Nothing is as it was on 9/10 from the way we travel, to the spending of our money by the government.

    To keep it in perspective, last year I visited Hawaii and stood on the Arizona memorial. This was 69 years after the event. As I stood there, I heard a veteran who was visiting for the first time since that day long ago when he was there on one of the ships. He spent the day trying to save lives and help others find rescue. He was severly burned in the process which still showed today. What he described of that day made me think of 9/11 and it brought back the horrors that surrounded this place on that day in vivid detail from this very old gentlemen who until that day I do not think had ever been able to talk about with anyone. He spoke for about 15 minutes and everyone on the memorial stopped and listened. We will soon lose all those who were around that day and fought in the war that followed. His closing statement was that when we dropped the atomic bombs, a few then and many more today say it was the wrong thing to do. None of them were at Pearl Harbor that day. None saw the full evil of the Japanese war machine as they dive bombed to straff men trying to get out of oil fires in the water or clearly marked red cross facilities trying to aid the wounded. This was an evil cancer that had to be removed with force and at a terrible costs. Nothing short of the bombs or a million men being lost would have ended that evil and today both the USA and Japan are better off without that cancer in existence.

    I thought of that old gentleman as I watched 9/11 and could still see his sense of anger at what he had seen almost 70 years later. We have a long way to go in 9/11 memorials and I think the time will be longer because we are not committed to removing the cancer and think we can somehow wish it all away or pretend that the evil is somehow a little tumor and not part of the entire structure of Islam itself. That is scary that this could go on generation after generation.