14 September 2001

"Across time 
 and space 
 for all 
   - White Feather

I'm trying to make sense of the events of the past week, just like everyone else in the world. Not much does make sense, unfortunately. All the philosophy, all the flag-waving, all the religion -- none of it addresses the real issue for me, which is connected to all those people who stepped out of time and into eternity on September 11, 2001.

What feels right for me is what I wrote on December 31, 1999. It's right out of my journal, so if it feels raw, that's because it is. I'm throwing it out into the Universe, hoping it feels right to somebody else, too.

* * * * *
31 December 1999
I just watched the Millennium Celebration from Sydney, Australia, more than sixteen hours in advance of our own celebrations -- what a blow-out. They had Tchaikovsky on the Opera House loudspeakers, and a kilometer-wide fireworks display, lasting more than half an hour. There were also fireworks lighting the sky from several skyscrapers, and then, at the very end, they showed us something really wonderful, really human, something to thread us together in our hopes for the future. As the final fireworks were blasting off and the closing strains of the music began to die down, the Australian news commentator told us a story.

In the 1950's and 1960's, a recovering alcoholic was inspired by what he believed was a revelation from God. From the moment of the revelation on, he spent all the years remaining in his life spreading the divine message around Sydney. He went everywhere, writing "Eternity" in chalk on every surface he encountered. Sidewalks, buildings, park benches -- everywhere. The commentator said the man wrote the word at least fifty times each day, 365 days each year, which resulted in a staggering total of at least 40,000 times before his death. The man was a local legend in Sydney, and over time, word about him spread throughout Australia.

What touched me in the story was how astonishingly apt it was for the moment. At the very instant when every heart and every mind was focused on the passing of time -- the second, the hour, the century, the millennium -- the Australians decided to illuminate the one word that represents timelessness, and being out of time. "Eternity" blazed golden in the darkness beneath the bridge, shining brightly over the dark harbor, as the bells rang a triumphant carillon.

Very impressive. Very meaningful. Especially at a time when people around the world are celebrating, commemorating, and greeting the dawn of a new age. All the people who were born before this day, and who see the sun rise tomorrow, have the right to say, "I have a life that spans centuries."

What I write today is part of the 20th century and the second Millennium; what I write tomorrow, the universe willing, will be 21st century, third Millennium words.

People have been so blind. They've been so completely focused on the effect of time's passage relative to computer systems, they've lost the sense of something miraculous happening right in front of us. Everyone is anxious about what they'll do if things they've come to rely upon stop working. What if my car won't start? What will I do without email? What if the columns on my spreadsheet don't add up? What if there is no electricity for my razor/coffeemaker/hedge trimmers? What if the distribution channels dry up? What if our military loses its ability to track enemy aircraft and ships? What if critical maintenance routines fail with the spin of a single digit, a move from '99' to '00,' and cause the systems to believe they're ninety-nine years off-schedule?

What if, what if... but what if we are so focused on our technology, we forget to celebrate our advances, and our accomplishments? What if we forget that our lives aren't dependent upon the binary output of some machine? What if we forget the meaning of time itself, and timelessness? Are we nothing more than the 'wetware' that powers the 'software?' Are we only suited to exist as acolytes of a digital god?

There are people all over the country, and probably all over the world, who live in such terror of the changing century, they are barricading themselves in remote shelters. They've stockpiled goods -- food, clothing, fuel, weapons, wood, candles, batteries, matches, water, and even livestock -- in the expectation of disaster, the complete breakdown of civilization.

For some reason, the fear is that all the infrastructure underpinning our lives is going to suddenly collapse, and the dreaded "Helter Skelter" is finally going to come to pass.

The people who are preparing for the conflagration are consumed by their fears. They believe the center cannot hold, and that society must collapse in fire, warfare, and chaos. They are like the Buddhists who subscribe to the belief that men suffer from 108 evil desires, except they do not believe, as the Buddhists do, that man has any hope for controlling or overcoming those desires. The survivalists believe that Armageddon is arriving, if not at the stroke of midnight, then soon. The only way to ensure safety is to withdraw to the far hills, hunkered down in caves and bunkers, shooting invaders who dare intrude into their staked space.

Why don't those people feel the same hope I did as that incredible word, twenty meters high and one kilometer wide, shone out its message? "Eternity."

* * * * *

We are eternal, and timeless. Terrorists can't take that away from us.


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