Reflections on 35
Recently, I turned 35. What does that mean? I'm not sure what anything means in a world where people will blow up buildings in my neighborhood to make a point.
People have asked me how old I 'feel.' I've never been 34 in my mind. I've always been stuck mentally in my late 20s. Maybe 30. Yes, I have a wife and 2 wonderful kids. But I'm not old enough to be 35. Or so I thought.
9-11 or whatever you call it made me feel *Old* with a capital O. I know that's the intent of such an act. To take the strength from the enemy. Well, that part didn't work. I've been depressed. I hated walking through the no-travel zone. I hated seeing ground zero. I hate watching the news now. Reading the Times is also difficult. But I do it because I need to learn more about those that would do such a thing. About those that would use biological weapons.
Depressed? I'm done with that feeling. I have resolve. Every day I go to NYC is a day that no one has beaten me. Yes, commuting now sucks even worse than it did before. The PATH trains can no longer go to the World Trade concourse, so two times as many people use the 33rd street line. I have to get up even earlier to go to the city. It wears me down a bit.
So WHAT? I walked away. 5000+ [Ed. Note - now about 2900] people did not. And while I consider myself lucky, I know it could just as well have been me. So, now I'm 35. What will I do differently in this new world? In this new year?
1. Go home when work is done. I'm very careful to try to get out as early as possible. I'd rather spend more time at home. My family is even more important when I know that there are other families where the kids will grow up without one or both parents because of a sick need to make a statement.
2. Learn more about the world. I've learned more about terrorists and Islam (the moderate kind, not the fanatic's version), and I know more about US policy than I have at any time since I debated at Model UN conferences in High School.
3. I'll figure out what I can do to make a difference. I enjoy volunteering my time for NYNMA, for WorkingToday, but I felt really good that I could give to relief efforts, buy food and goods for volunteers, etc. What else can I do? My eyes are open. I'm also teaching my kids well on this point. Brooke now knows that there are people in the world who need stuff, who don't have enough, and she offers toys she's done with and old books to "kids who don't have any." Teaching my child a sense of charity is a mitzvah.
4. Learn from history and try not to repeat mistakes. I heard recently that the Taliban had forced Hindus to wear yellow clothing, like Hitler forced the Jews to wear yellow stars. I first went to the web to find out if this was true. Once it was, I immediately talked with some Hindu friends at work. What can be done? This was pre-"the day." And yet I knew that the Taliban and their ilk were evil as soon as I heard this one piece of news.
Singling out one group is the way genocide starts. Blacks, Jews, Hindus, everyone has a place in the world. What about the people "detained" for preaching Christianity? For bringing information into China? How can our species survive when we continue to forget lessons we've just learned? I recently read in "the attention economy" that we as humans are genetically programmed to look when something bad happens to someone - the rubbernecking phenomenon - so we can avoid that condition and continue the species. How can we miss the human race miss the "bad thing" that oppression and hate lead to war and death?
© Copyright 2002 Howard Greenstein.
Last update: 8/23/2002; 9:15:01 PM.