September Concert at Union Square
Neda and I just got back from a long weekend in NYC where we got to see our good friends Dave and his fiancée Abbey as well as Mike and his girlfriend Christine. Being in New York City over the weekend of 9/11/11 was a very special experience. While the news channels trumpeted warnings of attacks and did their best to sow fear into the hearts of Americans, New York was vibrant and alive with music, festivals, and sumptuous food. It was almost as if the teeming mass of the city was practicing a form of civil disobedience against fear - buoyantly going about their lives as an affirmation of living life with an open heart. We passed drum circles, impromptu theater happenings, Chinese dancers (see video below), and a live “September” concert in Union Square honoring the memory of 9/11 by celebrating life through song.
At the concert I realized as I listened to Declan Bennett croon about freedom, that while our nation has been waging a “War on Terror” this past decade, a more important battle goes on in each of us every moment. How do we personally work with fear? Whether it is of terrorists, of taking a chance on a hobby that scares you, or of a new idea. When fear consumes us, it acts as a voracious fire that burns its way into all of our thoughts and offers to act as our very identity. We willingly take on this false identity because we believe that indulging in the fear will keep us safer. And in some ways it does keep us safer, but at what cost?
Overcoming fear...with beer!
The problem is that our relationship with fear is parasitic, not symbiotic. It weakens the host it feeds upon. The trick that New Yorkers seemed to understand this past weekend is that you can’t put the fire of fear out by running out of the forest. Instead, you create a fire-break – an open space where the fire simply burns itself out. By celebrating and remembering with all of New York this past weekend we made space for fear and then overcame it the only way it has ever been overcome – through laughter, song, merriment, and an open heart.