Terror-free on 9/11

Another 9/11. Will there ever be one to eclipse that horrific day 13 years ago? Watching the President announce our latest war on terror last night, it really feels like we’re stuck in one of those sci-fi time loops. We need something to spring us. We’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.

Humans have always found and will always find something to be terrorized by. Blaise Pascal, we noted in class, was so frightened by the cosmos itself (“the eternal silence of these infinite spaces”) that he felt compelled to subdue his own exquisitely rational/mathematical mind and brainwash himself into believing life in our universe comes with ultimate satisfaction guaranteed. Don’t bet on it.

The inherent mortal terror of existence is precisely this knowledge that we must die sooner or later, one way or another, without any sure promise of a 2d act. Nor have we any assurance of solid reviews for the show.

We have a hard time remembering our good luck and being suitably appreciative (let alone grateful and joyous): we get to die, because we got to live. We’re here now, invited to savor the free lunch of existence.

So: we’ll speak again in class today of Epicurus and the simple life, the life of freedom and fearlessness, the privilege of existence. Even when dying a miserably painful death, our philosopher took time to disarm fear and celebrate life. On this truly happy day of my life, as I am at the point of death, I write this to you. The diseases in my bladder and stomach are pursuing their course, lacking nothing of their usual severity: but against all this is the joy in my heart at the recollection of my conversations with you.”

And that’s how to beat terror. A good and timely reminder on this date, in this time. We’re not dead yet, nor are our children, nor theirs to come. If you want to be happy, be. Live.

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