Less than a month before terrorists killed thousands by crashing planes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001, I was traveling in Thailand.
At the time, I remember being disturbed by news of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban. (The film The Giant Buddhas, released in 2004, chronicles the process.)
I asked a Buddhist monk his thoughts on what I perceived as a profound tragedy. He calmly explained that the worldly manifestation of the statues mattered little. He expressed sadness—not at the loss of the marvelous monuments—but at the expenditure of money, resources and energy in pursuit of destruction. Such a trivial thing in the face of poverty, plight and suffering of the people. His steadfast resolve impressed me.
When fanatics—minds twisted by the same radical philosophy that destroyed these wonders—took down monuments to capitalism with the same cool calculated precision, the stakes were raised from a symbolic gesture to murderous barbarism.
How does one respond?
While it's a bit touchy-feely to admit it, I find hope in works like Saṃsāra, the latest from Ron Fricke director of Baraka, and the cinematographer of Koyaanisqatsi.
The title, (according to Wikipedia) "literally mean[s] 'continuous flow', .. the repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth (reincarnation) within Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön, Jainism, Yoga and Sikhism."
His global view affirms life in a terrific, persistent way, showing us a world where the majestic and spiritual manifest themselves in the material, a world where we are all interconnected, where acts such as 9/11 and the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan are self-defeating.
To repair my psyche from the damaging recurrence of images of planes flying into the towers, I watched Woody Allen's Manhattan:
Nowhere have images of the City been so romantically captured.
Manhattan stands a monument ascending to the list of things that make life worthwhile:
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