On September 11, 2001, I was unemployed, mostly hanging around my house getting ready for what was to be a long sailing trip from San Francisco to Florida through the Panama Canal. I woke up to see a spare, low-bandwidth page on cnn.com, saying that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center towers. Some time later, they collapsed, and we stayed glued to the television and the Internet to watch.
The headmaster at Loomis was this wonderful short, bald man, with a friendly Van Dyke beard, light-color tweed coats, and bowties. He was dauntingly well-read, very patient, and moral in a good way--along with a passion for the job, all the qualities you might want in someone who tries to help teenagers grow into good adults. One day at a class assembly he got up, and said, without preamble, "Zounds!". followed by jumping up and saying "S'blood!" on the landing. He urged us to be more civil, pointing out that in past eras swearing by the blood and wounds of Christ was considered plenty vulgar for everyday use, and the faculty had noticed an increase in profanity, and it would be beneficial to the community if, when we found ourselves about to use our typical profanity in a casual manner, perhaps we might consider saying "Zounds" instead.
We laughed, and so ended the lesson.
It's been a bumpy couple of days in my internal world, lots of not-quite-explicable anxiety, and some moments of feeling like I'm coming apart at the seams, just disintegrating. This isn't a new feeling, and I'm not happy to see it again; but I have some different tools and abilities to manage it this time around, like breathing, zazen, and aikido. And I wonder, as I keep myself from flying into a million pieces, if that's really such a bad thing; if this is just an ego trip, trying desperately to keep myself and my life the way I think it should be instead of the way it is. That's reassuring--if it's just me clinging to myself and everything around me, and that's a lot of how it feels, then I can let go and the wind will blow where it will. Somehow, and this is, I think, an incredibly obnoxious beautiful paradox, openness and love are not possible without a willingness to lose or be hurt by those things and people to which you are opening yourself. That is, to love someone, I have to be truly willing to let them go; if I am at all concerned with the letting-go or its consequences, that willingness has evaporated. Two people continue in an endless series of encapsulated moments, free.
But that doesn't seem to be quite it, either.