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Society and Politics

When Towers Fall

Society and PoliticsAn essay by Jerry Wennstrom, author of The Inspired Heart, written during the week of September 11th, 2001.

As I sat down to begin the process of writing this, I had completed only one raw and clumsy paragraph when Marilyn, my wife, walked into the office and put her hand on my shoulder. Startled, she pulled her hand away in surprise! "What is THAT?" There was a small green tree frog sitting on my shoulder, looking toward the computer that I was working on. The frog sat there as if to oversee the cautious and delicate exploration of thoughts and feelings that I was attempting to lay out in word. I was asked to write something on the week's events, the terrorist attacks on America.

This tiniest of creatures, a voice of nature, sitting on my shoulder, allowed a humble moment of communion with a surprising, yet welcome presence. It was a moment that turned into a prayer. It was a prayer for guidance, to be the mouthpiece for some quiet and delicate voice, a voice that sits on our shoulder like an unobtrusive small frog, the voice of nature, and of innocence.
-- Jerry Wennstrom, September 16, 2001

"Frog Medicine"
Frog sings the songs that brings the rain and makes the road dirt more bearable. Frog teaches us to honor our tears, for they cleanse our soul.Like frog, we are asked to know when it is time to refresh, purify and refill the coffers of the soul.Frog medicine can clean negativity from any environment. Frog speaks of new life and harmony through its rain song.
From Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams & Carson (Bear and Co.)

When Towers Fall

For two days following the event of the terrorist attack of the World Trade Towers, I felt a strange and abstract discomfort. I could not quite define exactly what it was outside of the obvious shock and horror of having my country and my beautiful city of New York attacked by terrorists. I sensed my feelings were coming from a more personal source, something deeper having to do with my own thought process. While exploring these feelings and listening to the news, hearing talk of retaliation, even revenge, I could not find it in me to project any blame outward to anyone. I wanted to feel right about my country and about myself as an American. I wanted to know for sure that we were the innocent victims in this horrible act. Although I knew there were innocent victims, somehow I was not able to fully inhabit that position as an American. This was troubling me. I felt partially responsible. I was clear that this was a horrendous act. It was a horror to witness on the TV, and I could only imagine what it must have been like to actually be in this destruction.

Besides the fact that I was born and raised in New York State, emailing and being in close contact with friends who lived just blocks from the disaster as it unfolded brought the tragedy even closer to home for me. The thought of the inevitable suffering this would bring to those who would have to continue their lives damaged, and the suffering of those who lost loved ones was in and of itself, overwhelming. Yet, there was still this undefined personal uneasy feeling that I could not quite put my finger on. I found myself holding my wife a little tighter when we hugged and comforted each other.

What finally emerged into consciousness was the fact that I did not feel clear about America, about myself as an American, or about what The World Trade Towers actually stood for. I found myself feeling compassion for everyone involved including the terrorists who were willing to die for what they believed. This was no small act of insanity by an individual who in the end killed others while saving their own neck. These people however horribly misguided, had ideals and beliefs. Somehow they believed this act of terrorism was their "holy cause," and passion in the service of what they believed to be their "God."

I had to ask myself what did they feel so strongly about? Why, as a country and as a belief system that co-inhabits this planet with many others, is America so hated? What may we have done to other countries? What do those towers represent in the world? I could easily identify with the innocent human beings hurt and dead, but is the economic power behind the flagrant expression of those towers something I believe in and identify with?

What I could not find grounding in, or find comfort in, was not whether or not what the terrorists did was right or wrong. I was clear that this was horrible. My personal uneasiness was that I could not suffer properly from the restful perspective of some higher ground of innocence as an American. I did not feel comfortable in my belief that the corporate American consciousness, which was symbolized by those towers, was a less destructive force in our world. I wanted America to be right, right politically, right with other human beings on the planet, right with nature. and right with God. I could not feel or believe in that rightness and this troubled me. A healthy relationship with one's own country is like a marriage. If it is not lived and worked constantly and continuously opening out to others with equal love at all levels, then the sum total of all that is hidden, unhealthy and left unconscious will erode the structure of that relationship. I realize I risk something in saying that I am committed in my relationship with my country, yet I believe our very American pursuit of profit and economic growth at all costs may have created a deadly and destructive machine. I think we as Americans have to at least look into this possibility.

This economic machine has taken every advantage to assure its own justifiable existence. It does not completely take into account the humanity and welfare of Americans any more than it does the humanity of anyone else in the world. Its claim to "America " is just another advantage which I believe would be, and is, dropped in an instant if there are more profits or sales to be had elsewhere. The economic machine holds as its only allegiance the "bottom line," and anything can be justified by a simple proclamation and bow toward this god. Business is business, and as an omnipotent false god, it has no country.

I am deeply saddened by the strange mix of issues that came up for me here and for the potential of continued violence that may result from this same confusion in our world. The issues to be considered are loaded with polarizing and dogmatic elements, not to even mention the potential for aspects of advantage seeking self-interest coming in to cause further confusion.

There is the risk of being misunderstood for any of us who even ask some of these questions in the attempt at making sense of all of this. The fact that the death of so many innocent human beings are mixed with the shadow-side of what our politics and the World Trade Tower may have come to represent in the collective psyche of our world, needs to be looked at. I feel if we do not properly discriminate what is of God here, and what is of dollar, and what is of power and what is of terrorist; this tragic and potentially violent emotional blend involving so much human suffering will continue at all levels. It goes without saying that the tragic destruction and loss of innocent life in the falling of the World Trade Towers is an impossible atrocity to contemplate.

I have a personal mantra I use when faced with any impossible situation: things I cannot understand or would rather avoid trying to understand. My mantra is, " This too is God." Holding that thought helps me trust and search for deeper meaning behind seemingly meaningless challenges. The toppling of this twin economic metaphor by the extreme expression of the terrorist attack must be seen, at the very least, as a wake up call to all of us. A call to look more closely at what we take for granted, what we expect materially from our world. We must look more closely at what we consider "normal" in a world where most of what we have available is abnormal. Do we take too much and perhaps not even know it?

Is the quiet whisper of the startling mystical frog that sits on the shoulder of the world trying to tell us something? Perhaps this is a call to all of us as Americans, a call to all human beings on the planet, to stay attentive to what it is we truly wish to create as a reality for ourselves as a whole. Perhaps it is a call to awaken from indulgent complacency and muster the courage to create a new vision, to rebuild a tower where we can world-trade aspects of soul and higher humanity. Perhaps this could be a call to live in a way larger than the dictates of our own individual or national economic and political advantage. Perhaps we may even some day want to recreate the very masculine tower of American enterprise. Create a new symbol, replace it with a new form, something that is actually life affirming and sustainable at all levels for all people. We may some day need to actually create a symbol for the larger success of a planet at one.

While listening to a radio program one day there was a consideration put on the table, to rebuild on the site of the World Trade Towers, a building in the shape of a dome. It was actually being considered for fire safety reasons. Think of how this shape as a metaphor (symbolic of some conscious, humble creation, closer to the ground, more womb-like, feminine and all embracing) would speak about a whole new way of being in the world.

Some of the smaller tid-bits of news and programming I saw during this crucial period of the attack actually turned out to be some of the most interesting in terms of possible seeds of change and understanding. Peter Jennings did a program where he interviewed a group of young school children and allowed them to express their feelings on the events of the past week. For the short time I watched, I was completely struck with the clear and inherent understanding children have about balance and divine law. Several children said the terrorists would have to have done this destructive act on Americans because of things we may have done to them. They did not know what we might actually have done, but they knew it must have been something. They had the sense that nothing happens without a reason. This was a point few adults had the courage to even consider out loud, in the face of this huge and awful tragedy. I saw in the children hope, hope in meaningful understanding. I also saw confusion when adults explained this possibility away. Life is meaningless and disempowering if there is no cause and effect.

If there is nothing we can do within ourselves that will make for a more loving relationship with the world around us, then confusion, defense and annihilation of any external enemy will be the only alternative. As human beings, we are not fixed or in any way perfect. What the children wanted to know is how can we be better people? This does not in any way make the actions of the terrorists right. Nor will it eliminate the inevitable use of the sword on the rare occasion of defending the unavoidable confrontation with a defendable truth.

What I saw in the group of children was an inherent understanding of infinite possibility. We as adults can learn from this understanding. We as conscious adults, have the potential to bring to the reality of any event: a God of meaningful and mysterious possibility, a kind of fluid unknowing which allows for unplanned synchronistic results -- even if that un-manifest potential makes no sense at all in an immediate and reasonable sense. We can do this even if we feel limited because of a lack of clarity, and do nothing. While doing nothing, we can hold and anticipate the very real and hoped for possibility of inspired new understanding, and with it, clear new direction.

Perhaps the small frog sitting on the shoulder of "Unknowing" is in and of itself the message; it is okay to allow our hearts to heal as we attentively wait and feel our way into the next act of courageous selfless beauty on behalf of our world.

When Towers Fall

A small voice of understanding,
Something of small meaning,
in tremendously large and destructive events.
The peep of a tree frog
heard listening
through the deafening roar
of a compounding collapse of stories.

Innocent, breakable human beings,
hopes and dreams still warm,
crashing and dying
beside the dull belief
in the invincibility of towering green gods.
Enormous false gods
turned to dust
by lurking, whispering, dark beliefs.

One child watching,
Quickly corrected,
Look how beautiful.

God must know something
the frog won't say.



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 Society and Politics
Jerry Wennstrom was born in New York in 1950 and went to art school for three years there. Instead of completing a degree program, though, at age 29 he set out to discover the rock-bottom truth of his life.

After years of questioning his own motives as an artist and getting by on next to nothing, he moved to Whidbey Island and re-emerged into the current art scene with his wildly inventive sculpture.
The Inspired Heart: An Artist's Journey of Transformation
The Inspired Heart - An Artist's Journey of Transformation
by Jerry Wennstrom

In this book, Jerry Wennstrom tells the extraordinary story of his daring exploration into the source of his creativity.

In the late 1970s, Wennstrom was a rising star in the New York art world when he realized that he was too attached to his identity as an artist, and set out to discover the rock-bottom truth of his life.

He destroyed his large body of art, gave away all of his possessions, and spent the next 10 years living in the moment, on basically nothing, surrendered to unconditional trust and the creative inspiration of his heart.

More info