Today we live in perpetual moments of melancholia that now define our modern lives. We do not live in a state of regret, but we live with an ongoing consciousness of things we have lost. How do we handle the recognition that, over the last four years, so many precious things have been forever stolen from us?

We have lost our sense of sanctuary. There are no safe places. We cannot find protection in schools, mosques, churches, or even with each other. We have lost our right to privacy.

We walk the streets and we are watched. We enter public buildings and we are required to provide ID just to remain in the building.

We surveil our neighbors. People different from us — in color and tone and financial stature — are our silent enemies and are ripe for the reporting. We have lost our joy to depravity.

We realize happiness is gone because to give yourself over to love and living and delight is to place down your guard and to relax your defenses.

Ordinary is now hard and cold and steely as a matter of everyday existence. We have lost our fear of terrorism because the terror is all around us.

We are monitored.

We are marked.

We are mocked.

We are terrorized by the news and by the gospels and by the medical and military professions sworn to protect and provide for us.

We — as our own tormentors — find terror encircling us now and seeping from every corner and lurking in every dark crevice and we have lost our innocence and our inscrutability in the realization that the real terrorists are us.

38 Comments

  1. I have nothing really to add except that once again you have hit the nail on the head.
    You have outlined the reasons I am so happy to live in such a remote area – away from everything/everyone as much as I can – I do not like what has become of society.

  2. You’re lucky you have the ability to hide, Nicola. There are so many of us who are stuck with each other. 😀
    How do your friends who live in condensed places feel about their losses? How are they coping with the realization things will never be the same again?
    I’m not sure if it is possible to extract joy again from the genie’s bottle. It seems the shell is cracked and cannot be repaired. The egg has become yolk — syrupy and unmanageable.

  3. You’re lucky you have the ability to hide, Nicola. There are so many of us who are stuck with each other. 😀
    How do your friends who live in condensed places feel about their losses? How are they coping with the realization things will never be the same again?
    I’m not sure if it is possible to extract joy again from the genie’s bottle. It seems the shell is cracked and cannot be repaired. The egg has become yolk — syrupy and unmanageable.

  4. David,
    I have lost all of the things you describe in this article because of our obsession with war and the appearance of security.
    On a more personal level, I have lost a grandmother to a myriad of health problems and a friend to drugs. I have seen many friends come and go and miss a few of them more than they will ever know.
    I’ve lost my sense of wonderment and awe. I’ve lost my sense of direction. I’ve lost my healthy and necessary fear of destruction and consequences. Some of these things I have recovered. Some, I have not.
    What have you lost, David?

  5. David,
    I have lost all of the things you describe in this article because of our obsession with war and the appearance of security.
    On a more personal level, I have lost a grandmother to a myriad of health problems and a friend to drugs. I have seen many friends come and go and miss a few of them more than they will ever know.
    I’ve lost my sense of wonderment and awe. I’ve lost my sense of direction. I’ve lost my healthy and necessary fear of destruction and consequences. Some of these things I have recovered. Some, I have not.
    What have you lost, David?

  6. There is a general sense of gloom – a feeling of “is it all worth it?” – many are looking to escape as I have done. Sadly a lot of them are trapped and find that for one reason or another they cannot get off the merry-go-round.
    As a general observation – I feel this sense of loss is one of the reasons we have increasing problems with drugs and alcohol – people need that refuge – that escape.

  7. I think you’re right, Nicola. This international terrorism and war have created heavy burdens on our shared consciousness and identity. We suffer in silence because to step forward is to be condemned.
    You are fortunate you can bunker down in the midst of current society. You can hide and grieve in plain sight without needing to artificially alter your state of mind.

  8. I’m afraid what is once lost can never be found again. We have to find new things. We can build new pathways. We can’t go backwards. Only into the future.

  9. I am not sure about reclaiming – I don’t think there is a way we can ever go back – but what we can do is preserve our traditions and skills where we can – share the magic where we can and share “unmitigated joy” where we can.
    As long as there are people who live outside of the system who are happy healthy and well adjusted – hopefully they can shine a light and say that more is possible and more is doable and that there is so much more to life than being part of the machine.

  10. That makes a lot of sense Nicola.
    Perhaps one day future generations will find joy and keep it dear to them for the rest of their lives without losing it to dismay or disappointment.
    I don’t think it’s possible to sustain joy today — because if you are cogent and alive and thoughtful — you see just how trapped and scared we’ve all become.

  11. I think we’ve lost common sense at times.
    What good does it do to require a photo id to enter a federal government building? The guards don’t call it in to check for warrants or to see if it is valid. I don’t think they can do that from a two second glance at a driver’s license. Would they turn someone away if they didn’t have a government issued ID?
    Airport screening also raises the same questions. I once flew on a ticket that was purchased by someone else in my name, so I ended up getting the “SSSSSS” notation for extra screening on my boarding pass.
    Does swinging a wand around me because I didn’t pay for my plane ticket make it safer when the bad guys can apply for a credit card in their own name and buy their own tickets?

  12. We certainly have lost our shared, community, common sense, Chris!
    You’re right about the useless ID thing. I can walk into any NYU building, flash my ID, cover my face and name with my thumb and the security guard “checking” my ID won’t even look up from reading the newspaper. If, however, you don’t go through the motions of pretending to show you ID, then you’re followed, and yelled and investigated. So silly!
    😀
    I agree airport security is totally insecure. It will only get worse when a terrorist act strikes inside a terminal and they push all those security measures OUTSIDE the entrance to the entire airport and we all stand outside shivering in the name of Homeland Security.

  13. Please ponder this…..
    Have we lost OR have THEY won?
    The terrorists want us to feel defeated and like our liberties have been destroyed or taken away. We most certainly must lead a different life than we did six years ago. We were lulled into thinking that we lived in the perfect world in this country and they woke us up to what other parts of the world have dealt with for years.
    Sorry I haven’t been around in a while.

  14. Hi Rich —
    I’m not sure it matters if we lost or they won — it all depends on what side of the argument you choose. There is no doubt, though, that we’ve changed, been awakened or knocked out of our lull by the realities of the world swarming around us.

  15. Hi David,
    The other silly thing about airport security is that determined people can circumvent airport security by paying a little more and chartering a jet:

    It seems that three hour waits amid long lines, luggage hassles and annoying security checks are inconveniences of the past for those who don’t mind paying a little extra.

  16. Trust.
    With a capital T.
    We have lost the comfort of trusting each other. We judge, we sniff, we fear, more so…we rationalize our sense of apprehension – but we don’t trust.

  17. Hi Katha —
    There are some who might argue we were too trusting and that led to 9/11. We are now required to be suspicious of everyone first because trust assumes, by default, that the other person’s intentions are pure and right.

  18. I understand some would argue, I understand 9/11 happened because people were trusting, I understand the necessity of being suspicious today…
    Does distrust lead us anywhere? Is there an end of it?

  19. I understand some would argue, I understand 9/11 happened because people were trusting, I understand the necessity of being suspicious today…
    Does distrust lead us anywhere? Is there an end of it?

  20. These losses are those many of us have discussed amongst ourselves at great length. But there comes a time, I think, when we must turn our attention and our gratitude to that which we still have. That alone changes our outlook from endless gloom to prospective hope. I prefer to say the glass is half full rather than half empty for we cannot use gloom as a foundation for fixing that which needs to be fixed. What we still have, however, may serve well as our cornerstone.

  21. Hi Katha —
    I think distrust is the new trust — we have convinced ourselves the smartest and most loving thing we can do for each other is to always be on the defensive and to always be alarmed and urgent and static.

  22. We are, I suppose, variously grateful for friends and lovers, freedoms that still surpass those almost anywhere else, the grace of morning and spring, and the steps we’re taking on our journeys in discovery of self.