Son of Louis F. Aversano, Jr.
At the time of writing these words, as we approach 9/11/10, the bending of time is palpable. There is a paradoxical feeling that since 9/11/01 we’ve both come so far – that our wings are spread wide and ready to fly – and yet we’ve barely taken a step forward, like we are stuck in the mud. This paradox feels both reflected within and in the eyes of the world.
The love and laughter of my father feels so close – like a warm comforting breath on a cool day, and yet his presence a memory that’s like trying to hold onto water in the cup of my hands.
At this time of reflection, the sadness of absence meets the joy of remembering. The anger of hatred meets the hope of Love. It is all of this that stirs within – nine years after that morning we will never forget – now reflecting on the Life of my father and the unlikely alliance of so many through Peaceful Tomorrows which was born out of an act that was meant to divide us all.
A call from my Uncle, awakening me from a deep sleep, “They did it again! They did it again! The building is falling before my eyes….” still rings clearly in my mind. And with so many more awakenings since the ringing of that alarm, now within me also resonates a voice of comfort, of hope, of courage and compassion, and of a determination that the loss of my Dad does not have to represent a turn towards the worst of humanity, but can be a beacon that awakens the best of who I am, of who we are!
This simple truth is what brought me to Peaceful Tomorrows. To see this light shine in those courageous voices who first stood up and said, “Not in our name.” To speak a voice of conscience when the traumatic reaction of un-consciousness seemed so prevalent.
It is these voices of resilience and hope that has sustained me. From my friends in Peaceful Tomorrows to the now countless others I’ve met who have been impacted by violence and have found that path of resilience over reaction. To all of those who have found the words of remembering in times when we all felt so broken and have demonstrated courage to speak their truth and speak from their heart – even when their heart ached – I thank you! It is your Spirit that has helped me find my voice too. It has helped me find the ways to speak my hearts truth and find the courage to tell a new story. A story that does not trap me in the horror of death, but instead honors the life of my father, Louis F. Aversano, Jr. And in doing so, carries on his legacy of caring, of Love, of hard work and determination, and of resilience in the face of challenge.
This is where the path of being a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows has taken me. It is a path I could have never imagined. So many roads, so many travelers, and so many signposts to help guide the way. Signs that have read….
Healing is not a destination; it is a journey that is taken one step at a time.
In the least likely of darkened corners, a bright light can shine.
Even one single voice guided by Love and Compassion can make a difference.
Things are not always what they appear to be, therefore, what lens is it that I am looking through?
We live in contradiction, in contrast, in conflict, but we are all so much more the same than our fears would ever lead us to believe.
The source of conflict is not outside of ourselves, it is within.
The human impulse of “survival” is evolving into the re-turning of Love.
Love is stronger than fear.
All of these sign posts, these lessons, these gifts have directed me to this moment – this place that I find myself and to these words that I offer to you.
Again, how paradoxical and how perfect. That my Dad, who was a beacon of Love and Light in our family and in his community, and the subsequent taking of his Life, would ultimately lead me to an awareness and a path that arrives at what I describe as the very essence of the evolution of humanity.
My experience of the range of reactions and responses to 9/11/01 has led me to a place of seeing and living life in a new way. The very notion that we all have the ability to view life through a multitude of perspectives is itself part of this new place of awareness. So, with humility and a loving invitation, I offer these words and lessons of my life to you.
How would I sum it up? Drawing from my personal life, my spiritual path, and an education of both human design and human trauma studies, it feels like the evolution of our human journey is arriving at a place I call response-ability – the re-development and re-claiming (meaning we already have it) of our ability to respond vs. react to the circumstances and stimulus of life – both as individuals and as a collective consciousness.
There is a quote I want to share that recently spoke to this evolution that I feel most people did not recognize in this way. While this quote was made in reference to race relations in America, I believe these words by President Barack Obama also speak directly to the awakening of consciousness that I feel I am attempting to put into words right now. President Obama said, “There is still kind of a reptilian side of our brain, that part of our brain that, if somebody looks different or sounds different, that there’s part of us that is cautious. And what we have to do is fight against that.”
I applaud our President for speaking such direct and truthful words in the public domain and I personally take those words to speak directly to the evolution of consciousness that we are all experiencing – right now.
When studying Trauma Awareness and Transformation at Eastern Mennonite University as a representative of Peaceful Tomorrows, I received a multi-layered understanding of what I believe President Obama is speaking about. Basically, our fight or flight response. That part of our brain that is hard wired for “survival.” And how our “survival mechanism” creates the illusion of safety is through the illusion of separateness. Mine vs. Yours. Me vs. You. I am right, You are wrong. I am me, you are the enemy.
The bad news is there are many who recognize that a majority of people in modern industrialized societies are living in a constant state of fight or flight. With the current demands and pressures of “modern living,” coupled with our own personal challenges, tensions, and the constant media stimulus of stories and visions of suffering, death and destruction, a self fulfilling black hole is before us of constant traumatization. Furthermore, this societal trauma being co-created by our peers, who themselves are societally traumatized and are attempting to fulfill their roles as executives and decision makers, are unknowingly helping to perpetuate a never ending cycle of media drama and trauma that is believed to be what “we” as a people want! The result, a culture of burdened, fearful, and “burned out” people – more and more in a state of panic and survival. It is what Eckhart Tolle describes in his book, “A New Earth” as my pain body, feeding your pain body, feeding the collective pain body. The cycle never ends.
The good news, or on the flip side of this coin, is that I believe an important evolutionary lesson and step forward is before us. That we are being shown, through our knock at the door of our own potential destruction, that in order for us to co-exist on planet Earth we must embrace a revolution and evolution in the basic understanding of ourselves as human beings. That, from the top down, we must take seriously the existence (or extinction) of our species to the depth of our hearts and to the degree that we are willing to shift our attention from looking outside ourselves for blame and change, to the turning of our gaze within. I believe we are being asked at this time to stop making the problems of life be about “the other” and begin making the solutions of life be about ourselves.
In essence, I believe what is before America (and all humanity) is a reclaiming of self-response-ability. For each of us to take that evolutionary leap within to understand our human design in such a way that we no longer allow ourselves to be led by the blindness of reaction (hatred, greed, and separateness) and instead begin to find the ways to rise above reaction and embrace the consciousness of Love and understanding.
The challenge? This evolutionary step is not somewhere we can be led; it is a place we must embrace on our own. And it is not something that can be taught (the centuries-long distortion of spiritual truth into religious dogma reveals this very clearly). We must walk this path and experience it for ourselves. In doing so, we will all reach the precipice of ourselves in which we must take that inner leap past the illusory resistance of survival, beyond the temptation of our survival mechanism that wants to create separateness, and seek the humility and grace to find a new way that leads us back to the truth of our Heart and our Soul.
As my brother Steve always sings, “Love is in need of Love today!” We are in desperate need of Love – first and foremost – Love and acceptance for ourselves – exactly as we are, exactly as things are. With the inner experience of feeling closer to ourselves through our own self-understanding, I believe we inevitably discover the natural experience of feeling so much closer to others bringing forth the natural impulse of compassionate awareness.
So, what has been the biggest lesson of this journey? What might make the loss of my Dad have a lining of hope? It is this gift of awareness….. That when we find the ways to try to understand, to see the bigger picture that includes not just ourselves, but all people and all of our beautiful planet, what emerges is the gift of the experience of oneness. It does not take far to look to recognize that we are all connected in so many more ways than we are different and separated. That what is within you is so much more similar to what is within me than we ever give ourselves the chance to see. And that what is under all of the layers of ourselves and the constructs of the world around us are some very simple truths – that we all want to be loved, that we all wish to express our love, that we all wish to be healthy, and that when we are living this full expression of our true selves, we arrive at the simple experience of joy. Thanks Dad!
9/11, ten years later
PBS: Six Words For 9/11
Peaceful Tomorrows members visit Groton Middle School and contribute to “The World’s Largest Book on Peace”