Sunday, March 19, 2006

What changed on 9/11?

Most importantly, I appreciate his understanding that after September the 11th, 2001, the world changed; that we face a common enemy -- terrorists willing to kill innocent lives; that we now recognize that threats which gather in remote regions of the world must be dealt with before others lose their lives. President Bush

And in a sense, sort of the theme that comes through repeatedly for me is that 9/11 changed everything. It changed the way we think about threats to the United States. It changed about our recognition of our vulnerabilities. It changed in terms of the kind of national security strategy we need to pursue, in terms of guaranteeing the safety and security of the American people. VP Cheney

Before a person studies Zen, mountains are mountains and waters are waters.

After a first glimpse into the truth of Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and waters are no longer waters;

After enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and waters are once again waters.

Alexander Pope warned, drink deep or taste not the Pieran spring, there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain and drinking largely sobers us again, an idea expressed by the Buddha as, there are only two mistakes one can make on the road to truth, not going all the way and not starting.

Enlightenment, as the Buddhists will tell you, is a process, not a state. They describe it as a process of continual awakening as if from a deep sleep, which recalls Plato's metaphor of the cave and the process of leaving it into the light of reality. I like to think of it as the rekindling of childlike curiosity, which my son constantly reminds me, but why Daddy?, is insatiable. Each discovery merely paves the groundwork for more.

Of course, it is easier for a child, unburdened with the sense of knowledge, to learn. They accept their ignorance.

Older people, however, like myself, think they know. Thus the initial stages of enlightenment or awakening to the world as it is, leads one to the view that
mountains are no longer mountains and waters are no longer waters. Continuing on the path, or in Pope's words, drinking largely, lead one to the view that mountains were always mountains, we just had the wrong idea to begin with. The world is as it always is, only our views change.

September 11, 2001 was a day of awakening for many people in the United States. The End of History dream of Francis Fukuyama, the view that the world had evolved into the final form of human existence, was dashed. Cultural conflicts, which Fukuyama and his adherents had argued were now a thing of past, were manifesting in the third millennium much as they had in those preceding it. The world, as the Tower of Babel story suggested long ago, did not want to dance to the beat of only one drummer-to view the world through only one lens.

This dream, unfortunately, was seductive. Trillions of dollars have been wagered on an old dream, a corporate commercial structure which transcended nation-states. Yet the old problems have not been solved. How does one deal with the vicissitudes of the global market-with the ever changing terms of trade? What happens when you need to sell your exports but they are too cheap, or buy your imports and they are too dear?

The old solution to this problem was greater self sufficiency. Instead of expending all national resource on a few endeavors, some resource was diverted, redundantly from the perspective of those in search of ever greater global corporate efficiency, to providing for the necessities of life closer to home. Profits were lower than they would have been during the boom times but shortfalls in necessities were avoided in lean times.

The question for any economic unit, from a person to a family to a nation, remains the same, how to find a balance between over-reliance on a system of exchange and missing out on the virtues thereof.

The new solution to this problem will be, I believe, greater self sufficiency. The redundancies ex-Fed Chairman Greenspan spoke so highly of eliminating when waxing poetic on his hi-tech, hi-productivty dream will return. Price stability, the windmill at which modern Central Bankers tilt, will remain a dream. The terms of trade, and with it, the status quo, will always be in flux. Cultural dominance will remain as it has in the past, temporary.

The dream, of course, is not dying easily, particularly in the minds of those who bet on benefiting from its reality. Would it not be nice, they argue, to continue living in the world of 1999, to capture the sensibilities of the world in some computer program and fix them there, much as was depicted in the movie, The Matrix. Alas the dreams of prosperity for all which were so widespread in 1999 have been dashed in many minds. The bright future dreamed by many in 1999, proved to be much like the past in the living.

On September 11, 2001 we, in the US, learned that we lived in the same world we had been living in all along. It has been a harsh and cruel awakening from a wonderful dream-a dream like most that cannot be recaptured by going back to sleep, try as one might.

Life will be as it always has been or as the Zen Buddhists put it,
Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. At least that is how I see it, but perhaps I too dream.