What we call the beginning is often the end And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
ENDS AND BEGINNINGS are inextricably linked, especially when they are tied to something as arbitrary and as fundamentally meaningless as a number on a calendar. We approach the year end acutely aware of how irrelevant a date can be. There has been altogether too much movement in the tides of humanity in recent months to be overly impressed by a date that heralds the passing of one year and the arrival of another, save perhaps, on a strictly symbolic level.
The sun had barely set on the epochal day of Sept. 11 and it was already a cliche to say that the world was changed. There remained only for subsequent events to make the nature of those changes known to us, and that was not long in coming. There were palpable changes at both micro and macro levels. So many bodies to be found; so many lives shattered and to be rebuilt; rubble to clear; a city which many consider the capital city of western civilization to rediscover and reconstitute itself. Then bombs and missiles rained down on Afghanistan, a very distant country whose tragedies we barely know and do not understand. One tragedy, as so often happens, bred another. Western governments reacted to terror and threats of terror, as governments will, with measures and legislation, which some will say are a necessary part of living in the changed world before us, and which others will say constitute the most concentrated assault on human rights and civil liberties since before the days of Magna Carta. We walked in fear: fear of more Sept. 11s and fear of new things such as biological terrorism which are so strange and so horrendous that they have previously been contemplated chiefly in the minds of those who write fiction.
It has been said that fear and God cannot live in the same house, but in their fear, people sought God. People asked where God is in all this, and in search of an answer, they flocked to churches where there was a great deal of rhetoric but few answers. There may, in some places, have been solace to be found in the churches; there may even have been illumination and inspiration, but churches no less than governments are incapable of telling the people what they wish to hear -- that it is all over now, that the nightmare has ended, and everything will be all right.
The year 2002 dawns with all of humanity suddenly adrift, on a course that is new, with a destination that is unclear, and under leadership that is as bewildered at the highest level as it is at the lowest. …