This is part two in a series on photoshopping memories. It addresses the question of how your attitude creates the frame for your memories.
Photoshopping is not a precise or perfect technology. If you look closely at fashion magazines, you occasionally see examples of photoshopping gone wrong, with extra fingers and hands appearing in scenes and people without belly buttons. I saw an image recently with a rugged looking man carrying a motorcycle helmet in one hand, and the other hand holding a woman’s hand. The problem was that the woman’s hand wasn’t connected to an arm. Frightening! The point is that sometimes the frame we put on our memories distorts our perception.
You can photoshop blemishes out of a picture, or you can add them in, if you want to convey something more earthy and real. Your photoshopped image can be improved or ruined, depending on what you hope to achieve. The same is true with photoshopping memories. We all do it, all the time. We upgrade our memories with new meaning. We take as a given that events happened at least close to the way we remember them. But the meaning we draw from memories change all the time. This is where we have some control.
In the most general sense, memories present a choice- is a memory going to haunt you, or motivate you? Will you respond with love or fear? If you are going to update the meaning of a memory, make sure you are framing your life with greater love and optimism and not more fear and hatred.
The response to 9/11 over the last 10 years has often been divided between the two responses of love and fear.
On the one hand, there has been a growing movement towards unity. On Sunday, the sixth annual 9/11 Unity Walk took place in DC with the theme, From Different Walks, We Serve As One. People from all faiths and no faith walked together to honor a tragedy where people of all faiths and no faith died alongside each other, and people of all faiths and no faith put on masks, stood shoulder to shoulder, dug in the rubble and did what they could to save lives and give victims an honorable burial.
Soon after 9/11, people began learning about what Islam is truly about as opposed to the extremist version of Islam that terrorists peddle. Dozens of mosques around America held open houses to increase understanding of the peaceful nature of Islam. A lot of the very early response was encouraging. People quickly photoshopped fear out of the awful images of 9/11 and replaced fear with love and understanding.
On the other hand, there has also been a strong movement based in fear with a lot of misinformation and scaremongering. A man on a flight to California, opens an envelope and a powdery substance spills out. A fellow passenger alerts the flight attendant, reporting that he had dispersed the powder into the ventilation system. Once the plane lands, it is held on the tarmac for three hours and the FBI is called to investigate. The “powdery substance” was confetti enclosed in a greeting card. These sorts of over reactions have been common place in the last ten years.
The resistance to an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan and the burning of Korans are two more examples of fear mongering. For some people, the image of the planes flying into the Twin Towers was equated with a Muslim attack on America. With that frame, anger and vengeance are inevitable. Over a dozen states in the US are now contemplating following Tennessee in outlawing certain aspects of Sharia which will interfere with some basic Islamic practices. Once again the fear of a few is squashing the rights of many.
My deep hope is that more and more people will choose love, and choose to be part of the solution. If 9/11 showed us anything, it was that life is too short and fragile to waste a moment in fear and hatred. There is so much more that unites us than divides us. The best legacy to those who died or suffered through 9/11, and the best rebuttal to terrorists and haters, is to work for peace in the world.
When the first plane hit the North Tower on 9/11 most people assumed it was a mistake. When the second plane hit the South Tower, people quickly upgraded their interpretation from accident to terrorist attack. But that’s just the beginning of the photoshopping process. The image of burning buildings and innocent people jumping to their deaths is set within a frame of reference. Fill this frame with as much love as you can muster, for everyone involved; the misguided terrorists, the innocent victims coming to terms with their deaths, the first responders giving their all to save lives, those grieving and confused, and the blue sky….blue sky straining to break through clouds of dust and grief. You can’t help but feel some hope in the midst of a tragic situation.
As the wise and courageous Anne Frank said,
I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that cruelty too will end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.
To truly honor 9/11, be part of the solution. Heal the memories. Create meaning with your life. Love without fear. Believe that change is possible, as more and more people set aside the things that divide with fear and return to the essence of life which unites.
Gary Zukav said, “Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is.”