Bay Reflections
Vol. 9, No. 43
October 25-31, 2001
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Lesson from the Leaves
by Pat Piper

September 11 has become a date similar to December 7 or November 22. All one has to do is say it, and no further explanation is needed. One can only hope there are not going to be many more dates like this. In these times, however, one would be naïve to think that way.

Since that September day, I have heard over and over that this was a moment when “the world changed.” The fact of the matter is that was a moment when our view of the world changed. It is so American to expect our vision version to parallel everyone else’s. On that September day, every one of us was forced to see the world outside of HBO, Gary Condit, SUVs and Barry Bonds’ home-run streak. It was a moment that rocked our foundation, forcing us to take off the sunglasses and look at what is really out there.

Using the dark cloud-silver lining view, I like America today. I like seeing the flags draped from bridges across I-95, from apartment building balconies or from antennas on cars. I like how nice people are while waiting in lines at airports instead of getting on a cell phone to whine to someone in a loud enough voice so everyone else gets to hear his or her feelings. But most of all I like how America has become a nicer place to live because total strangers are willing to lend a hand if and when another is in need.

These qualities have been there all along; it simply takes the removal of all the things that aren’t important (a few of which are listed above) to see. Life has meaning now because we have learned how the trivial things that have a knack of becoming important are, well, a waste of time.

While out on my boat a weekend or so ago, I found a quiet anchorage along the Rhode River where I sat looking at the changing colors and hearing the silence. Then four aircraft shot across the sky in formation, no doubt as part of the protective zone along the country’s East Coast and Washington corridor. The colors didn’t flinch at the decibels pounding toward earth.

I learned something: The leaves will change regardless of what we do — unless the Chesapeake becomes Afghanistan. It shows that all of us are caretakers, and the best care we can give is to just leave things alone. Unfortunately, Mr. Bin Laden is in the group too. Unfortunately, we’re all stuck with this fruitcake.

I’d like the chance to take him to the Rhode River and ask him to listen to the silence while the leaves change color. I’d like to ask if he could see other ways to go about changing opinion other than killing 5,000 workers in an office building. I’d suggest if he had a problem before September 11, he’s got a bigger problem now — and this one has absolutely nothing to do with whatever point he was trying to make in the first place. And I’d ask him what are the things in his life that are unimportant because those are the things that have a way of getting in front of what is important.

I’d point to the leaves and the way they can change color depending on the sun. And I’d say everything offers a different view, depending on where the light is coming from and where you happen to be standing or floating.

The point to be made is it’s never you against me. Rather, it’s you and me against whatever the problem happens to be. That’s how solutions are found. It’s all about getting clichés and prejudice and ego out of the way so that the important issues can be seen and faced and handled.

The world is the same place. We’re all just in a different place now to see it.

Mr. Bin Laden ought to try it sometime. I think once the ego is out of the way, and the hatred is discarded, then he’d agree we could do without any more dates like September 11. Evil is learned. It isn’t a natural state. It sounds so simple. And it’s the simplest stuff that’s always the hardest to do.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly