Love All, Exclude None: Non-Violence in the Wake of 9/11

Love takes extreme bravery to be vulnerable, to be kind and honest, to be a person that realizes we are all connected, intimately, no matter the land we live on, the color of our skin, the tenor of our voice. We can and are bigger than fear and intimidation when we hold boundaries with love instead of with fear.

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan

When September 11th became a distinct day in history by the loss of life and the days forward with our response, I remember waking up in Chicago getting ready to go downtown.

I was freshly married, recently graduated from The Art Institute of Chicago. On that early fall morning, I was brushing my teeth getting ready for the train ride downtown when my friend, Mitzi, called. She told me in an urgent hushed tone, “Turn on your television.” I did, and my eyes, my brain, couldn’t quite comprehend the images on the screen. I sat down on my living room’s green carpet in our walk-up apartment on Roscoe Street, my toothbrush in mid-air, phone cradled on shoulder and watched speechless.

The images on the screen juxtaposed with the golden leaves of the maple tree dappled by sunlight outside my window didn’t fit.

Then, I decided not to go downtown, but to turn off my TV and gather those I loved near as we waited to hear from friends, family and humans working in NYC, Boston, Philadelphia. The TV remained off. One by one, friends came over. Trish and I quilted. A quilt we had long talked of making out of all my newlywed’s, Peter, flannel shirts. Peter made food. And we sat together and my college friends left work and came to perch quietly at our house and talk.

Now, Trish says, “Looking back, on that day, I remember how lucky I felt to share those first dark hours in your tall ceiling apartment. The symbolic gesture of working on that quilt made from your husband’s old button down shirts together. Proving once again that old friends still bring a sense of solace to such tragic memory.” Now, as Peter and I raise four boys, we have a dialogue with them about September 11th, about pain, about tragedy, loss of life, conflicts, and how we can respond—the potential we hold, I think about our response to this day in the early dawn of our marriage.

I watched a hope arise within me that we might be brave enough not to retaliate, but to take a big action of nonviolence and ask why.

To engage in dialogue. To risk knowing one another, and why when we inflict pain on another we must be in a lot of pain ourselves. What is the root of this pain? To risk vulnerability as a nation and consider how we arrived here. And, to feel the pain of losing loved ones and to not want to inflict that on other people in other lands. Because we are really all connected. What occurs anywhere ripples outward. I dreamed of writing an op-ed hoping it would harken and make a difference.

That day I didn’t write an op-ed.

Instead I felt the palpable blanket of fear settle over our land, as night fell covering all of us. Like a blanket we shake out in the wind before we spread it on a lawn. This blanket was huge, and heavy, and roughly tossed, carelessly stitched, only to be finessed later by reassurances that it would make us safer and more comfortable. From that blanket new “securities” arose, to keep us safe and less free in thought and action, if we choose that.

Or we could choose connection.

Choose love, and that doesn’t mean not being brave. Love takes extreme bravery to be vulnerable, to be kind and honest, to be a person that realizes we are all connected, intimately, no matter the land we live on, the color of our skin, the tenor of our voice. We can and are bigger than fear and intimidation when we hold boundaries with love instead of with fear.

We can do that by coming together—adding our patch to the collective quilt of love. Eventually those boundaries with love dissipate, fall away. We begin to look for the love, not the answers.

Love all, exclude none.

 

Photo: (source)

Editor: Alicia Wozniak

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Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan

Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, MA, MFA, is a writer, SourcePoint Therapy practitioner and SomaYoga teacher. With four young boys, adventure and learning to live well while supporting others in health is a joy. Yoga, writing and wellness take her into schools, across states and out into nature, where she feels at home and blissfully grateful for this wild and wonderful life. Read more from Elizabeth at Writing from the Nest.

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By | 2017-09-27T06:44:47+00:00 September 27th, 2017|Arts, blog, Empower Me, Featured|0 Comments

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