Requiem

Wednesday, 31 August 2011, I was looking through the CD’s to put something on while working around the kitchen area.  I pulled out John Rutter’s “Requiem” for no conscious reason.  For those of you who are not into classical sacred music, John Rutter is a composer-conductor who is promoting a return toward 19th century compositional style in which you can listen to and enjoy the music and understand the lyrics.  Twentieth century beat-you-over-the-head and grind-up-your-ears style compositions have done little to bring us closer to the sacred or contemplation.  What I was really after, though, was to turn off the week long 9-11 10th anniversary commentaries on the radio.  

We knew that the 10th anniversary of 9-11 would be coming up.  The first boardcast that I noticed was Sunday evening, while at JV’s bar, while conversing with friends and enjoying some classic country music.  One set of TV’s was covering the WVU vs Marshal U. game.  The other a baseball game.  When the WVU-Marshall game went into rain delay, I glanced up to see that the baseball game was over and a news commentary program was showing video of the planes hitting he towers, etc, interspersed with comments from various people.  I have since heard some thoughtful commentary and interviews on NPR about 9-11, but I did not want to obsess about that day or the 10 years since.

I had planned to not write anything about 9-11, as I figured that we would all be saturated by the time I posted something, and my reflections would be somewhat secondary compared to the thousands who witness or were more closely affected by the events.  I am among the millions who are 3 or 4 degrees of separation from those involved.  I could write about our move the the mountains 2 years later, but 9-11 was just one of many, and probably not the foremost influence in that decision.  Furthermore, I would be concerned about offending family and friends with military connections, who might take my pacifist leaning views as unpatriotic or naively liberal (e.g. 6000 soldiers and 100K to 300K civilians killed to avenge 3000 lives lost on 9-11; $1 trillion in military spending above the base military budget for the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq; loss of civil liberties in the USA, etc.).  Then I realized that I was listening to a Requiem (mass for the dead).

So, this weekend of 9-11 remembrance, I have sorted through my classical music collection for other tributes to death.  Mozart and Faure’s “Requiem”, Berlioz’s “Te Deum”, Rachmoanifoff’s “Vespers”,  Parry’s “Elegy for Brahms”, and Scubert’s “Death and the Maiden”.

On 9-11 2002, I sat in  park, awaiting a job interview (which fortunately did not lead anywhere), in another beautiful September day, and wrote this poem:

We read the names of those lost
When planes flown, with intent
To destroy the symbols of our
World success, crash through
The dreams and dreamers of our life.

We read the names of those lost,
But omit nineteen among the dead,
For they commit themselves to end
The insult and oppression they
Believe we force upon their homes.

We read the names of those lost,
In one day, one hour, one moment,
Yet, silent are the corpses
Burried on the battlefield
Or huddled under dry walls

Can we name the lives lost
To ignorance, greed, and godly intent?

I chose to post this after the 9-11 weekend to allow for a different sort of contemplation.

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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4 Responses to Requiem

  1. Barney says:

    Like you, I think the 9/11 anniversary was overdone. The sadness of the 3000+ lives lost does not offset the tens of thousands of lives lost in a nonsensical war. The sadness resulting in the permanent changes in how we live, and in the loss of liberty and freedom, all in the name of saving freedom, is greater yet. I was 6,000 miles away from home on 9/11, and the humble reactions of the people there seemed so much more genuine than flags flying from pickup trucks and “Freedom Fries.”

    Great piece.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I was (am) ambivalent about the 10th anniversary. For some a week of remembrance could be a valued series of events. I do not wish to deny those folks of that occasion. However, the media has a way of saturating us. I chose to turn off the 24/7 coverage and remember in my own way. Requiems were the thing for me. In looking for the poem, which I knew that I had written into a journal, I came across what I wrote on 9-11. I read this quietly and closed the journal. Again, mine is one of millions of circumstantial stories. I did put out a small flag on my truck dashboard each morning when I arrived at work. I have this, now, next to my aunt’s medals from her years of service in the Army Medical Specialist Corp. What started as a symbol of unity, quickly was co-opted into a mission of destruction. I think that we played right into Al Queda’s hand, and have probably turned a couple of generations of young Arabs against us. I am watching what comes of the revolutions in the Middle East, to see whether these are truly political uprisings for freedom, changes from one dictator to another, or jihad in the under the radar.

  2. The Vicar says:

    Thanks for sharing your reflections. In our short attention span, news as entertainment, celebrity focused world, it’s hard to find meaning by joining the mob. I too scratch my head at some of the rhetoric that I hear, with the myopic focus on “us”, and an obliviousness towards “them”. In many parts of the world, 9-11 happen every week if not every day. America has become so insulated from death, hunger, and suffering, that we have to remember something that happened 10 years ago to identify with a suffering world. Apparently there hasn’t been another memorable tragedy that could pry our attentions from TV, movies, sporting events, or others distractions in the last decade. I think that we suffer greatly for our failure to be more contemplative in our lives. We’ve honed our attention towards the tension that exists between homeland security and Orwell’s “Big Brother”, while ingesting a fair amount of Aldus Huxley’s “soma” through entertainment to maintain a state of equilibrium, and avoid thinking deeply. Perhaps our sphere of understanding could grow if we could get beyond the immediate.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Whatever one’s beliefs about life after life, one death removes that person from the possibility of influencing the present. When I hear statistics about ways people die (e.g. war, famine, crime, drug use, disease…) I think about automobile accidents. This is one form of death that usually occurs more than the others, which we could do a lot about individually through our driving habits, but which we do little about. It is easier to get excited about one event, then monitor the minor, but potentially harmful ones each day.

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