Common Grounds

Common Grounds

Tomorrow is September 11. It is nearly impossible to ignore memories this day brings to mind. Around the world, people of all ages remember vividly where they were and what they were doing on that day. The events of September 2001 revealed a level of hatred beyond any understanding. Within a few weeks of this tragedy, my husband and I attended the New Hampshire Highland Games. It was my first time at such an event. The contrast with the world atmosphere shook me deeply.

I initially felt guilty. Was it acceptable to seek entertainment while the world mourned a tragedy of unthinkable magnitude? Was one permitted or able to enjoy festivities in the midst of such anger and pain? I internally vouched to spend the day reflecting on the toils of humanity. I felt I needed to gain some mature perspective on these matters. I was guilty of ignorance.

The moment we began walking through the venue, which spans an entire resort, my mind went into a swirl. There were more people dressed in medieval garb than modern clothes, there were tents and vendors that seemed to be straight out of a history book and enchanting bagpipe and drum music throughout the site. We sat on a hill and watched, silent, transported and moved.

People were dancing, juggling, singing and laughing. How could there be so much joy, so soon? How could there be so many people there? Were we all insensitive? An answer to these questions formed, quite spontaneously, as I absorbed the sights and sounds. Peace and joy are always stronger than pain, and the ability to join in a place of music and celebration is an expression of perseverance; not indifference.

Eight hundred years ago, people of another time had done the same thing. They had watched their fellow men fall to persecutions of all sorts and had put on their best clothes and gathered on the public place to celebrate the feast of the day, to seek healing in laughter, music and, most of all, community. A sense of community, the ability to embrace the diversity that is weaved out of intricate and subtle common threads, can override any divergence in belief or background.

On that day, in 2001, at the New Hampshire Highland Games, thousands of people who were as horrified and hurt as we were had come together in spite of the pain. The whole venue had become a perfectly orchestrated gathering of thousands of strangers who had separate stories, different tastes and different beliefs. It did not matter. A sort of microcosm had formed. Quite spontaneously, we had all gathered there in a gigantic expression of our natural propensity for communion and peace, as though we had known each other for centuries.

In the end, we return to our respective homes, resuming the standoffish lives to which we have become accustomed. Perhaps we need a reason to come together, even an unspoken one. It requires an ability to be vulnerable and bold all at once. We are more likely to knock on a neighbor’s door to borrow a tool than merely to say hello. Maybe we simply need to say hello a bit more.

I have a silly vision of a war front where, unbeknownst to both sides, all ammunition was replaced by flowers, confetti and balloons. When the shooting begins, everyone is taken by surprise, stops and starts laughing in perfect accord. And this is the end of hatred.

Only six days to the 2010 New Hampshire Highland Games.

(Edited and republished from my personal Blog)

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