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The Little Things

Posted: September 11, 2002

By Kevin Forest Moreau, Editor-in-Chief

A year ago today, I was already lost and disoriented when I heard the news of the first of the World Trade Center towers getting hit. I'd relocated to the Atlanta area only a week prior, with virtually no support system, and I was suffering the turbulent emotional aftershocks of a nasty breakup. As I began the 40 mile commute from my mom's rural cottage (where I was staying while I looked for an apartment), I'd started to slip some kind of musical comfort food -- I think it was OK Computer -- into the stereo, when some mysterious instinct compelled me to turn on the radio instead.

As the normally wacky morning show team registered its shock and outrage after the first attack, in my stunned detachment I could only think how similar it seemed to a Tom Clancy plot. And as news of the Pentagon and Pennsylvania incidents began coming in, that detachment only intensified: I think that, in the grip of the insecurity and unfamiliarity I was already experiencing, my mind, confronted with these new and unbelievable stimuli, decided to wall itself off, to let no more painful things in. "That's it," I remember thinking. "The world is coming to an end. I might as well just pull over and wait for it." The closest I came to any emotional reaction, to any kind of self-preservation instinct, was an eleventh-hour hope that a lifetime of rejecting the orthodoxy of organized religion wasn't about to bite me in the ass. That I hadn't, in my refusal to acknowledge the white, bearded Anglo-Saxon patriarch God of modern Christianity (why did our civilization have to get the whitebread God, instead of someone with more flair, like Odin or Zeus?), consigned myself to an eternity of fire and brimstone. Or worse, that "the rapture" wasn't about to whisk the Elect off to Heaven, leaving the rest of us bitter souls to stumble around like characters out of the Left Behind series, shaking our heads in disbelief at all the holier-than-thou pricks who'd gotten the last laugh.

The world didn't end, of course, and the only souls granted admission to whatever lies beyond the pale of this existence were ones, who, for different reasons, didn't deserve it -- the air commuters, WTC tenants and rescue workers who didn't deserve to die, and the hateful zealots who did, but didn't deserve (and hopefully didn't gain access to) the glorious, virgin-filled paradise they'd been promised.

Shaking Through is an entertainment site, and I suppose I could, and maybe even ought to, justify adding my voice to the September 11 clamor by addressing the issue of how we, as a people, are using entertainment as a means of dealing with what happened. How people like Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Sleater-Kinney and even jingoistic Toby Keith have tried to address what happened in song, with varying degrees of success.

But the truth is that those efforts are and always will be insufficient to the task of making sense of the world we live in, a world in which atrocities (including many far worse than those of September 11) are all too commonplace. They'll help, certainly, in their own way, as will other attempts, be they books, movies, what have you. But we all know that no matter how good the intentions of the people involved, no song, no album, no film, no comic book will fill the holes, the empty spaces our fallen comrades, our murdered loved ones, our shattered idealism and our selfish, solipsistic world views once occupied. For better or worse, each of us is, ultimately, on our own here, left to cope with the blinding hatred of other nations and the world we live in as best we can.

So what's the point of all this? Where does that personal reflection at the beginning of this editorial tie in? What's the great lesson, the big epiphany? There isn't any, obviously. Nothing that will make things better, change someone's perspective or offer any real solace.

But if your humble correspondent's own experience with September 11 and the year since count for anything, then he'd tell you simply this: Take nothing for granted; life is much shorter than even the tired cliché about how short it is can adequately express. Mend a rift with a friend or loved one. Hug a kid. Do something nice for someone you don't like, and don't tell them. Take a hot bath, read a good book, play hooky, tell someone you love them, eat some fried chicken, do some volunteer work, make some part of your life meaningful in a way it wasn't yesterday.

As one of my favorite songwriters puts it: "The little things mean everything." And they do. The smiles of strangers, the warmth of a good deed done without thought of recognition or reward, the taste of a Pizza Hut Pepperoni Lover's pizza, the loyalty of a dog, the hug of a precious niece or nephew. Today, or whenever you read this, perhaps more than ever. Because everything -- and I do mean everything -- is, as another one once summed it up, "far too fleet."

That's it. That's all I've got. As Garth Ennis so eloquently put it in Preacher: "You gotta be one of the good guys, son, 'cause there's way too many of the bad."

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