When I was growing up, in a sing-song voice with an expression of distaste, my no-nonsense, practical mother would say to her dreamy, sensitive, overly-emotional daughter:
Jeez, Karen. Stop living in your everybody loves everybody, feel good world.
The real world is not like that.
Thirty years later, almost two divorces, court proceedings, my ex-husband’s drastically changed Airline career due to 9/11, and days when it was all I could do just to keep moving and somewhat functioning—yea, I got it, Mom.
I got it. Everybody does not love everybody.
Lots of things feel quite shitty.
There is most definitely evil in this world.
But what is our response to that evil.
So, I have been doing these celebrations with my friends marking natural cycles such as the new and full moons, equinoxes, solstices, etc. by a combination of Universal Dances of Peace, poetry and song. Last night’s New Moon ceremony was in Sagittarius signifying the need to be free to expand our boundaries.
The Dances of Universal Peace are spiritual, folk dances using words and phrases from many diverse religions and influences. The Dance that Genis chose was the Muslim Bismallah. She sends the outline over a few days prior, and I confess I read that one with a sigh.
The first time I really ever gave Muslims any thought was when several of them hijacked our airlines and then flew them into buildings on that horrific day of 9/11. Yes, I get it. I am one of those sheltered, egocentric Americans who never really spent any time before that day thinking about how anyone in the name of God or any religion or culture commits an act like that.
And afterwards, yes, I get it. There are probably lots of loving, warm wonderful Muslims out there, but when I hear the word, I have a negative reaction in the pit of my stomach.
But that is the song Genis chose, so I choose in return to come to it with an open mind. I start reading about it and find out that Bismallah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim is considered by many to be the pillar of the Islam religion. All but one chapter of the Qur’an begin with these words. In short, bismallah can be translated as by means of the very essence of God. The rest:
Both rahman and rahim are derived from the Semitic root r-h-m which indicates something of the utmost tenderness which provides protection and nourishment, and that from which all of creation is brought into being.
Not much to do with 9/11, is it?
And so I stood in my backyard last night and did the Bismallah Dance of Universal Peace,
Bismallah, placing my hands over my chest and bowing.
Bismallah, reaching my hands up to the air.
Ir-Rahman, circling with hands up sending energy out.
Ir-Rahim, circling the other way bringing energy in.
In the Name of Allah—walking in a circle.
And I sit here right now with tears streaming down my face, because on that day of 9/11, like thousands of other Americans, those horrible people changed me forever.
There were the people who died and who lost loved ones and, obviously, those were the most affected. But there were also countless others, like me and my first husband, whose futures were drastically changed by that day.
My ex-husband told me that day, That’s it. My airline career is over. I did not believe him at the time, but he was right that it became a different career. Even though he was statistically safe, in the top 90 percent of airline pilots who have historically never been furloughed, he was furloughed within a few years. Almost immediately, the lay-offs began, and we watched as the months ate up his seniority on the line.
Perhaps we would have ended up divorced anyhow, but the stress of financial insecurity coupled with small children certainly added to our struggle.
And it has taken me many years and many difficult experiences, to find my way back to this point. A different choice would be to hold onto my resentment and fear and live my life blaming those people.
But instead, I dance in my backyard to you.
To the many Muslims who believe in a God of utmost tenderness.
To Malala, the Muslim girl, who got shot in the head for saying that all children, both girls and boys, should be able to go to school—even, most especially, the children of those who shot her.
And to the little girl in me who believed in an everybody loves everybody world.
What does it cost me to be myself? Neighbors who think I am a bit odd. My current husband who tells me, You know we liked you better before all of this weird stuff, and sons who are worried their friends will read my writing.
What did it cost Malala? A bullet in the head.
Yes, mom, I get it. There is evil in this world. And no, everybody does not love everybody.
And I don’t begin to know what to do to fix it.
But I do know this. I know in the face of fear, in the face of ignorance, in the face of hatred and evil, Jesus and all the other wise sages throughout the ages would all say to choose love.
And love means giving people the benefit of doubt and not writing off a whole race or religion because of the actions of a few.
And so, it is with quite a conscious thought and action that I step back into my kool-aid, plastic bubble of everybody loves everybody.
I know it is a bubble.
But if you keep blowing and believing, maybe one day, we can all step inside.
Bismallah to you.
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Assistant Editor: Tifany Lee/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Karen Moon