I had planned to get up this morning and write a small apology to say that I wasn’t going to do many new creations this semester, because my private life was screwed, but then I thought better of that phrasing. The best explanation is that my public life has been swallowed up in my academic life. It is very unlikely that I will write anything new this semester, except perhaps in church, because I will be too busy doing homework. Then I was going to post some random poem still left in my cache and go on to that homework.
But then I got up this morning, realized what day it was, and thought that saying nothing in tribute would be impossible, almost sacrilegious.
I’m not a particularly patriotic person, in the sense that I laughed when the army recruiters started calling my senior year in high school. Of course I would die for my country. I’m one of those people who considers his life of very little value. I would die in a heartbeat for any stranger I saw on the street. Unfortunately, I have such little sentiment, that I don’t consider anyone else’s life of particular value either. I hear of travesties that happen around the world, of people starving, of planes crashing, of millions dying every day, and my thoughts are typically, “These are terrible things, and we should do everything in our power to resolve and prevent them. But there’s nothing to get upset about, really. They happen every day.” I’m also not a very sentimental person. It is only with great effort I usually remember special days, like birthdays and Christmas.
I’ve always been vaguely embarrassed about my values in that area, felt like such a tyrant for not caring properly. But it’s difficult for a person, though force of will, to make himself care. I don’t know how to do it. I only know how to act like I care, and I don’t like pretending. So strangely, one of the emotions that I experienced a year ago today was relief. For the two years before this one, I had a voice lesson every Tuesday at exactly 10:00. I came out of my lesson, in a very good humor, joking around with my teacher when we ran into someone in the hall who told us that passenger planes were being used as now. I only barely believed her. But once it was made clear to me that these things were really going on, I was relieved. I was devastated, and I was so glad to know that I was human enough to have so much feeling about something, in my mind, so very far away.
The thing I remember most about that day: It was a perfect day. The sun was shining. The air was a perfect 72. There wasn’t a breath of air moving, and everything was silent. I don’t know exactly where a thousand students, or the hundreds of cars that drive by my school every day, went, but the loudest noise on my whole campus that morning was the quiet chatter of the birds with the squirrels. It seemed so inappropriate, and somehow so appropriate, for everything to be so beautiful on the ugliest day of all. What on earth, really, could be an appropriate response to something like that? In chapel that Thursday, one of our school leaders (a student) declared a week of fasting and prayer for all who were willing. Among private colleges, ours is not a particularly religious school. Beyond the obvious, military responses, which show honor and vigilance, what could possibly display the appropriate depth of emotion?
Perhaps it is again my own lack of true depth of feeling, but it seems to me that all the four-hour fundraising specials could not do enough. There’s a series of services planned in a main thoroughfare at school today. I don’t know that I’ll be able to attend any of them. Yahoo has a site for people who want to make an online memorial. I don’t know that I’ll be able to look at all of them. Somehow it seems to me that the best expression for that day is the sense of irony I felt, that such terrible things could happen on such beautiful days.