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Do We Need to Take Another Look?
Perspective Gained Four Years After 9-11

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To some extent, it may be necessary for the human mind to simplify our perceptions of our experiences rather than to continually consider the full details of those experiences.

Perhaps in order to focus energy towards an end our minds cannot at the same time be occupied with the task of sorting through the minutiae of experience for fuller understanding. I am sure I do not understand the key concepts of Buddha's teachings, but one of the main ideas is that the path to enlightenment requires being released from the chains of human desire. ESL MiniConference Editor Robb Scott at the
college graduation of his son Robert Bryan ScottWhat each of us wants is in the end more instrumental in our words and actions than what we know or understand.

I have become increasingly concerned over the past several years with the theme that appears to be motivating a growing portion of human activity-- the "war on terrorism." I have not kept up with all the Star Wars movies, but I believe "good versus evil" is the general theme. Certainly the British government cast its war against the American insurgency in these same terms; the American Revolution was fought and won by "terrorists" who believed so strongly in the ideas of freedom and democracy that they were willing to go to any extreme in order to win. The leaders who today guide the nation of Israel were, little more than half a century ago, "terrorists" intent on establishing a Jewish homeland.

Religious faith is an idea with a great capacity to stimulate people into action. Other influential ideas are freedom, democracy, peace, love, family, and education. Yet even when two groups of people share in common one or more of these ideas it is possible for them to become bitter enemies, fighting against each other's existence.

When we are attacked, the normal human response is to seek to defend ourselves. That impulse--"fight or flight"--goes so deeply that it can override our natural interest in comprehending what we are experiencing. What does it mean to fight when the attackers have blown themselves up in the process of inflicting damage on people and things dear to us? Was flight--putting as much psychological distance as possible between us and a traumatic event--perhaps the only viable immediate option?

Four years later, is it time to take another look at the tragedy of September 11th and the events leading up to that terrible attack? Who are the people we have been calling "terrorists"? What can we find out about the ideas that may have motivated their actions?

I once heard a psychologist say that the act of taking a human life is, by definition, a sign of mental illness. If that is true, the condition is global and pervasive today. It will take bravery beyond what that concept has ever meant before to state the condition and take steps to heal the world.

Opinion by Robb Scott

2005 ESL MiniConference Online