Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hospitality is the thing that we've lost

Events like September 11th are almost impossible to write well about.  So today will be a day of failed blog posts, where writers struggle to say something meaningful knowing all along that  nothing can really be said.  It is a day for silence and contemplation.  More 4'33" than Beethoven's 9th.

Let me just observe, then, that the thing we have lost in the aftermath of 9/11--the thing we miss the most--is hospitality.  You see its absence in airports, where goodbyes now have to be said and welcomes made far away from the point of departure.  You see its absence in the stiffening of rules and regulations, in the limiting of options, in the officious way we relate in public capacities.  It is there in the decline of our public life, our inability to negotiate or be with people who differ from us.  It is in our schools, where the notion of home room is antiquated and the most important thing are outcomes.  It is in the stiffening of religious belief.  It is in the closure of parks, the need to eke every bit of capacity out of tax dollars, and time, and investments.  It is in the privatization not just of public services, but of the suffering resulting from unemployment, and loss, and fear.

So ten years on from 9/11, and in the ongoing fallout from the economic collapse, and in a nation where public life has become a zero-sum game, the thing I'll seek is a renewal of hospitality--sharing food, leaving the door open, welcoming people in, and remembering to accept those gifts from others.  I'll go to festivals, and parties, and host some myself.  I'll look for fear, my own and others', and see if there is a way to replace it with welcome, and comfort, and perhaps something that looks a little like love.

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