The human mind is an absolutely amazing thing. I’m not talking about the brain, but the mind, that part of your psyche that controls your thoughts and emotions and perceptions. We all know how valuable and intricate the brain is, its hemispheres and lobes, its folds and cortexes. But the brain works, in many instances, independently of the mind. The brain works in many cases involuntarily, controlling your breathing and your dreaming, your heartbeat and digestion. Or at least that is what I think I remember from 10th Grade Health class. But the mind, that’s something different entirely.
As you all know, I’m not a doctor; my knowledge of the human body and its organs is pedestrian at best, but I do know about the mind, that intangible aspect of our being that guards our consciousness and our personality. It’s our mind that allows us to focus our attention, to study, to create, to envision and to invent. It also allows us to forget, to rededicate our attention from uncomfortable or distressing events. Whether it is dropping your youngest child off at college 3,000 miles away or getting into the car knowing that more people die in car accidents than airplane crashes, it is our mind that allows us to overlook those issues, to put them behind us, or just block them out completely, in order to live, to move forward. Without our strength of mind, we become agoraphobic, paralyzed, stagnant.
I bring this up because of the memory of what happened 10 years ago. We have all seen the memorials, have shared in moments of silence, and have remembered the heroes who sacrificed so much on that day. But 10 years is a long time and life, for a lot of us, has continued. Maybe not entirely the way it was before 9/11, but pretty darn close, right?
It taught us an important lesson: it taught us that no one is safe. That terrorists, wherever they are, can find us. They can take their battle to our shores. September 11 was only the second time in the last 150 years that there was an attack on American soil and it certainly ranks up there with the attack on Pearl Harbor. We are not safe. It may have been airplanes last time; next time it could be a train or a sporting event or a movie theater.
And yet, we still travel, we still attend sporting events and we still go to movies in droves. We do this because of the power of our minds, because we have the ability to sense danger, perceive threat, and then force it from our minds to save ourselves from incapacitation. Lest we go insane, crazy with paranoia and fright.
I bring this up for two reasons; first, obviously, is the reminder of the events of 9/11/01. The second, though, is my daughter starting first grade. I don’t know if all parents feel this way, but there is something terrifying about dropping her off at school and watching her walk into the classroom. Once she is out of my sight, she is out of my control. I can no longer tie her shoes for her or keep her safe from bullies and skinned knees. I cannot control what she learns, what she hears, or what she consumes. It is only the power of the mind which gives me strength to get back in my car and drive to work, to not run after her into the classroom, sweep her into my arms and take her back home.
Our leaders may claim that the war on terror is winnable, that we are close to prevailing. While I hope that is true, I hold no optimism for its veracity. For every terrorist we remove from this Earth, ten more join the battle against us.
And yet, my friends, we win the battle. We do win, because of the power of our minds. The terrorists are after us for reasons many of us cannot even comprehend; one reason they despise us so is because of our enjoyment of life, for entertainment, and for fun. We prevail because we don’t let their actions paralyze us. We prevail because we don’t let our fear get the best of us. We prevail because we put aside the threat and the knowledge that there are people out there who don’t know us, never met us, and yet have dedicated their lives to eradicating us… we prevail because we live, because our minds let us.
It is a good thing, a great thing, to remember those who sacrificed their lives on 9/11. It is a better thing to use that as a renewed motivation to put the fear behind us and live life to its fullest.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste? It is a great thing to behold… It is how, why, we will win.
Have a great week.