My wife and I spend a lot of time talking to each other. We enjoy lively discussions and we do really communicate. What I admire most about Karen is that from time to time during our discussions she says something that is not only profound, but it changes our whole discussion for the evening. I look forward to these tidbits because they make me think and because they remind me of why I love her more each day.
Earlier this week we were talking as usual when Karen suddenly said “we will be living with terror for the rest of our lives”. When I asked her what she meant she said that terror was all around us. Earlier that day, for example, she read how a local community college was going to use money it didn’t have in order to put panic buttons in every classroom because there had been 2 assaults on campus within the last 2 weeks. Since the campus is open at night the panic buttons would serve as a way for students and staff alike to call for help in an emergency. While not a perfect solution, the panic buttons would serve as a way to deter some of the terror students and faculty are feeling because of the violence on campus.
Karen went further, however. She said that I should create a speech around this subject, or at least I should write about it. She said I should use my 9/11 experience and all the brushes that I have had with terror and uncertainty to help people learn how to live in our changing and ever more terror filled world. She is good at finding things for me to do.
So, here we are. We all live with uncertainty and sometimes terror in our lives. We are very fortunate here in the United States because we have not often faced the same kind of terror and violence faced by citizens of other countries. However, whether it be terror and violence or uncertainty and fears of another kind the challenge is still the same. how do we deal with these conditions that seem to paralyze our minds and bodies? The answer, although not complex, is hard for most of us to take, much less implement.
Terror and fear come from within. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines terror as quote a state of intense fear”. No matter what someone may do to us or no matter what we see happening around us the “terror” we feel comes from within our own thoughts.
Take a look at the actions of ISIS as an example. This outlaw and by any definition disgusting band of thugs has committed inhumane acts on people and countries supposedly in the name of religion. Of course, no true religious scholars nor anyone else who has a deep faith in God and in their beliefs condones the actions of Isis. Even so, for many the disgust and revulsion they feel has turned to terror and fear. This is what Isis wants and at present it is winning the war. Many people and groups have learned to fear and be terrified by Isis. However, as strong as the perceived power of fear can be to us the reality of certainty and conviction is stronger.
Imagine a time that you were in school taking a difficult examination. Suddenly you were confronted with a question that seemed impossible to you. You studied the question, you relaxed and after a time he reasoned out the answer. You are totally and completely certain that you had found the correct answer. There was no doubt in your heart or mind. Your logic was sound and your reasoning was flawless. Your terror, uncertainty and fear had vanished. At the end of the day you learned that you had given the correct answer.
Fear and terror stand no chance against truth, conviction, and certainty. It is true with Isis and it is true with anything else that we encounter. Isis is nothing but a band of thugs. They can talk about religion all they want, but they are simply killers and bullies who are committing acts against humanity. The war against them and all other extremist terrorist groups in the Middle East will be over as soon as those who are being victimized realize that no matter what, they have the power to overcome terror and evil.
Of course, with our vast resources and the collective wisdom of all of us in the United States we can help. Unfortunately, we are not helping but rather we are arguing and allowing ourselves to be paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. Our leaders are divided about how to participate in this war on while they wrangle among themselves and choose not to remember how to work as a team we are not helping to empower those who could benefit from our resources and assistance.
Let’s get back to the basic question of how each of us deal with terror and fear. We must learn to step back from whatever paralyzes us. Some of us can do this ourselves while others may need assistance from others. No matter what, we each have to make the decision to banish terror and find a way around it to certainty and positive outcomes for our problems.
I was directly confronted by terror and fear on September 11, 2001 as I escaped from Tower one and ran from the collapsing Tower to of the World Trade Center. I treated what happened on that day just like I treated any other emergency or surprise that I have faced in my life. For me, an emergency can even be hearing a car coming at me while I’m crossing a street. Automobiles are getting quieter and harder to hear. Quiet cars and the uncertainty they create will not prevent me from crossing streets or traveling throughout the world. What I have to do is to relax, focus, pay attention and use all my skills to avoid traffic hazards and the uncertainty all the new quiet technology in vehicles can create for blind persons. Vehicles are not terrifying if I do not allow them to be. Isis is not terrifying unless we allow it to be.
Our world is changing daily. We are developing new, innovative and sometimes totally unexpected technologies and ways of living. We have to accept this for that is the world in which we live. We should not allow ourselves to be terrified or fearful. We have absolute control over how we feel. It is up to each of us to banish terror and live life to the fullest. In my opinion each of us should also “pay it forward” and help our neighbors move out of the darkness of fear and terror into the light of truth, certainty and love.