Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 9, 2011

Change alone is unchanging

Filed under: Futures,General Homeland Security,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 9, 2011

The north reflecting pool, photograph by Michael Arad.

The tall towers have been replaced by deep voids.

Framed by the rush of falling water, the shallow pools are meant to reflect their surroundings.

At the edge of each void the names of the dead are inscribed in bronze.

In his original proposal the memorial’s architect, Michael Arad, wrote,  “A cascade of water that describes the perimeter of each square feeds the pools with a continuous stream. They are large voids, open and visible reminders of the absence.”

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man. (Heraclitus)

Surrounding the void is a grove of swamp white oaks.  Fast growing yet long lived, the trees could flourish for the next three centuries.  The species is native to New York and well-adapted to extremes of climate and urban life.

More than four hundred American oaks will be joined by an exotic other.  A single Callery Pear tree survived the collapse of the towers. Originally one of several ornamentals lining the plaza it was found, according to New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, “soldered, twisted and gnarled and blackened.”

The Callery Pear is native to East Asia and is considered by many an invasive species, tending to crowd out less prolific flora.   They also have “a nasty habit of crashing just as they reach their glory at 15 to 20 years old… Often large limbs are lost in wind and ice storms, but can also fail on a calm day.”

Last December when the Callery Pear was replanted, Mayor Bloomberg commented, “The presence of the Survivor Tree on the Memorial Plaza will symbolize New York City’s and this nation’s resilience after the attacks.”  Perhaps it also symbolizes our openness to diversity even in adversity.

The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony. (Heraclitus)

Tonight at 8:30 a choir with orchestra will perform at Trinity Church, a quick walk from the memorial site. The two hour performance will include elements of the Faure RequiemAmazing Grace, and three movements of the Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem. This is the culmination of a day-long series of concerts alternating between the Trinity sanctuary and St. Paul’s Chapel.

If you have visited Ground Zero you have almost certainly passed St. Paul’s.  This is a colonial-era church just across the street from where the towers once stood.  Amazingly the church survived without even a broken window.  A giant sycamore gave its life shielding the chapel from falling debris.

In the hours, days, weeks and months after the attack St. Paul’s served the needs of those involved in response and recovery.   Lyndon Harris, who was there, wrote, “More than 5,000 people used their special gifts to transform St. Paul’s into a place of rest and refuge. Musicians, clergy, podiatrists, lawyers, soccer moms, and folks of every imaginable type poured coffee, swept floors, took out the trash, and served more than half a million meals. Emerging at St. Paul’s was a dynamic I think of as a reciprocity of gratitude, a circle of thanksgiving—in which volunteers and rescue and recovery workers tried to outdo each other with acts of kindness and love, leaving both giver and receiver changed.”

The final performance tonight is Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant Us Peace) from the Bach B Minor Mass, considered by many the consummation of Western choral music.

Discussing the purpose of the memorial, the architect explained the design’s intention as, “stoic, defiant and compassionate.” These three characteristics do not always travel comfortably together.   But you can hear each in Bach’s closing chorus.

I am told that in the months after the attack the mood at St. Paul’s was persistently stoic, defiant, and compassionate. In that particular place where the very worst was so painfully present, firefighters and cops, physicians and iron-workers, believers and unbelievers, the wide range of humanity responded as one.

Again Lyndon Harris writes, “We just got up, day after day, dressed accordingly, and went about the monumental task of trying to make sense out of absurdity, bring order out of chaos, and reclaim humanity from the violence that sought to make human life less human. This was also a season of remembrance as we mourned the loss of loved ones. It was a season of improvisation as we tried, often at our wit’s end, to respond to the needs emerging from these never before experienced acts of terrorism.”

We can still be at our wit’s end.  Defiance often seems our default when either stoic restraint or unrestrained compassion would do better.   But it is not one or the other. We are to embrace opposites.   Bach was master of counterpoint, the musical expression of eternal paradox: love abides with hate, good abides with evil, life abides with death.  This is our perpetual reality.

All things are in flux; the flux is subject to a unifying measure or rational principle. This principle — logos, the hidden harmony behind all change — binds opposites in a unified tension, which is like that of a lyre, where a stable harmonious sound emerges from the tension of opposing forces that arise from the bow bound together by the string. (Heraclitus)

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Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 9, 2011 @ 1:10 am

If Heraclitus is correct — and there is evidence to support his perspective — how should this understanding of reality influence policy and strategy in homeland security?

If Heraclitus is wrong — Plato is among his critics — how is he wrong and how does this alternative reality influence policy and strategy in homeland security?

The invocation of shared memory is, among other things, an invitation to shared meaning. As we remember September 11 what meaning is found or created and how is this influencing policy and and strategy in homeland security?

Is the meaning derived helpful?

While I understand these seem to be very pedantic questions, I suggest they are actually fundamental questions.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 9, 2011 @ 6:40 am

Phil! Beautifully thoughtful post. Thanks!

We are our memories. For good and bad! Perhaps a decade still too short a period of record to fully contemplate
all that 9/11/01 will mean to the USA and the world at large. In the context of history the numbers of those who died on that day not probably significant to many not directly or indirectly impacted that day. Yet few domestic disasters outside of armed conflicts experienced in the USA have reached those numbers. Perhaps Galveston in early 20th Century with 5-10,000 dead from Issac’s Storm [see book of that name]!

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 9, 2011 @ 6:49 am

Correction: Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larsen.

Note that at least in NYC it was impossible to pretend that the event never happened thus the trauma since and mankind’s ability to forget and rationalize away events (wars) is both its strength and weakness.

The British still in PTSD from the first day of the Battle of the SOMME in WWI. Few in the USA today remember the Battle of the Somme. A day and battle that helped complete the suicide of Western culture. Was 9/11/01 the suicide of ISLAM? Time will tell.

Comment by John Comiskey

September 9, 2011 @ 8:07 am

IMHO, Pericles funeral oration is most instructive.

We honor those who have passed most honorably by living honorable lives. I say this because as I came to realize, attempting to live an honorable life and running have proven to be my coping mechanisms for my life travails and especially Tuesday September 11, 2001.

I have come to realize that each of us has their own unique coping mechanisms that somehow someway should be honored and, with exception, be facilitated.

IMHO and others, honoring the dead honorably is a hallmark of civilization. That said and IMHO, no wounds including the wounds sustained in the Battle of the Somme heal completely.

IMHO, somehow our maker intended this to be so.

In the next hour, I will take in one of my three times a week run and consider what I have said and what I have done and what I will do. I will consider Heraclitus and Plato and especially my father Sheamus Patrick Comiskey’s words so that I might serve honorably.

Fidelis ad mortem

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 9, 2011 @ 9:09 am

For those who want to read Pericles funeral oration: http://www.hlswatch.com/2009/05/23/memory-and-meaning-in-late-may/

Comment by US Congress: "Sleepy Hollow"- 11th September

September 10, 2011 @ 7:07 am

Phil, thank you —

John, while enjoying your running, pls keep a watchful eye out for those who lurk about within who seek our demise during this our watch!

William, unfortunately I do not believe we have another decade to look back as surely gold will exceed $2500 and even surpass $5000, however We will be engaged in WWIII within this next decade. For me, this is a certainty and while Lucifer is surely well entrenched, it will be God’s hand which scoops away all the dastardly deeds of man upon another precious creation of God.

It is the Europeans who have much to be concerned with this 11th September and hereon and it will be the Germans and their United States of Europe comprised of only ten nations with its Vatican as sidekick wjich in this pursuit by Christian and Islam which continues and finally places humanity again in jeopardy as in the past — for We here and our belved Republic, the future looks very challenging w/unemployment reaching well over 25% and soup lines here on Main Street USA!

While 11th September will be remembered, look at how many have no idea even of the date of Pearl Harbor!

We have a sitting President who hasd travelled over Israel more than once and a present administration which has intentinally snubbed the Hebrew and their covenant to protect Israel and it is this President and many of these inept Congressional members who have failed us even as we had entrusted them to serve the public and We all see here on main Street USA a spend and spend agenda and very little concern for our future which is depicted here by the American flag flying upside down depicting the distress we as a nation now find ourselves….

On this 11th September, it is apparent that our Naval fleet is aging as is our population like so many other nations and with age often comes wisdom and it is utter disappointment expressed by so many deserving elders who stood up in so many ways to enable us to experience this freedom and we have little respect for them or for the Constitution and the principles established by this Judeo-Christain nation —

It is time for strength in leadership and to pledge our undivided support to Israel and for us to strike Iran and to strike Syria for they have the blood of our youth soldier on their hands and we must use the evidence and show these “Brutes of Tehran” and the Syrian whose police kill substantial numbers of their own in cold blood!

It is time to use our mighty force in weaponry and let Lucifer know that We do have the strength to reach out to the oppressed and protect humanity against these thugs —

By the way, it is time to pull the WMDs from European soil and place them along our own borders – The European leadership has made it quite clear that they would prefer to see our struggle — this amnti-American sentiment will soon end when these weapons are pulled out — the new fast deployment German Army’s arrogance and those in political decision-making roles will change their tune quite quickly as will others when they see Congress on both sides of the aisle as more than what I refer to as “Sleepy Hollow” —

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 10, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

A video of the Friday evening Trinity Church concert is available at: http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/webcasts/videos/music-arts/the-trinity-choir/remember-to-love-let-us-love-one-another-with-a-sincere-heart

Videos of other Friday performances are available at: http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/calendar/2011/09/09/tag/music/

In the Saturday Times Steve Smith reviewed two Trinity performances from earlier in the week. Following are comments regarding a new work, Trinity Requiem, by Robert Moran.

After an initial crashing organ chord, the piece takes a tone of cool contemplation. Young, pealing voices sing largely tonal lines over a luminous mix of organ, cello quartet and harp. Mr. Moran deploys gentle dissonances and nervous repetitions to potent effect. He reinforces textural expressions of grief and redemption deftly and subtly, as when, midway through an instrumental offertory based on Pachelbel’s Canon, the organ drops out, leaving the cellos to conclude with a palpable sensation of diminishment and loss.

Simple enough to suit young singers yet complex enough to engage them, Mr. Moran’s elegant, potent writing was pitched perfectly to the occasion. Melissa Attebury, making her first public appearance as the director of the chorus, elicited a secure, moving performance, one that ought to have been heard by more than the few dozen audience members on hand for this 30-minute program, on which the Requiem was the sole work.

The Wednesday performance of the Trinity Requiem is not available at the websites above. But you can listen to a previous recording of the work, featuring the same Trinity Youth Chorus that performed on Wednesday at: http://soundcloud.com/innovadotmu/sets/robert-moran-trinity-requiem

As Steve Smith indicates, it is a composition of palpable sensation, appropriate for this day and our age. Find a quiet place and give over your mind and body to the music’s ministrations.

Last Tuesday evening at St. Paul’s chapel, on the edge of Ground Zero, Krista Tippet talked with Hendrik Hertzberg, Pankaj Mishra, and Serene Jones regarding the 9/11 attacks and asked the question, “Who do we want to become?” You can listen to the conversation.

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