Not long after 9/11 something grim came onto my inner horizon. It was like this: When I saw a person who I assumed to be Muslim, the thought that crept in was whether or not this Muslim was an extremist and therefore a terrorist. Almost unconsciously I began to conduct a sort of interior racial profiling. What fueled this was fear, the fear came from all the hyperbolic-meaning that was invested into the 9/11 event.
And I do mean hyperbolic. Nine/eleven is what Thomas Merton would have called a "pseudo event". Not at all to underestimate all the human loss and genuine grief and emotion and the miserable depth of all that. And not at all to undermine all the genuine outpouring of care and concern for families of victims and then, in some quarters at least, care for Muslim neighbours who were targets of the inevitable backlash. All that was beauty from ashes, genuine and human.
No, what Merton would have been referring to was how the world became suddenly transfixed by an event that at its base has nothing creative about it at all. The instant camaraderie, the suddenly new interest in faith, people flocking back to churches, the declarations by world leaders from pulpits of cathedrals of a new war to make the world safe. And the irresistible upsweep we all felt in the wake of all that fire-works. Merton would have asked us, while in that state of fascination, while we poured over our newspapers and absorbed all those images of flame and falling concrete, to take with us a page from the gospels.
He would have shown us how Jesus asks us to look away; to not be seduced by the power of bombs, of suicide planes, and the pronouncements of powerful people. Not to be alarmed by wars and rumours of wars. Not to be sucked in by the concentration of "meaning", all of it false. He would have shown through the gospel that our fear and "meaning-making" unwittingly gives credence to false-power, that is, satanic power.
The world is addicted to this false power. We line up around it like iron filings around a magnet. While the real power, as Alison has said, is so powerful that it can afford to lose to this power, in order to expose it. The real power has already been unleashed in this world, waiting to be further appropriated by imitating Christ, by growing a mind of Christ, by desiring the desires of Christ. The real power is discreet, open, full of love and beauty, and profoundly, not at all tethered to death.
Real power, unlike ersatz power, is not controlled by death. All false power of the pseudo events ritually dance around death. And death masquerades as the big show. The extent that my own fear, my "profiling" control my thoughts and movements is the extent to which I am ensnared by the big show. My freedom, our freedom, as always, is only through learning to see through the eyes of Jesus. How else to understand Jesus’ words that, "The meek shall inherit the earth."