It is 10:28 AM TEN YEARS LATER. All human sound hushes as a bell somberly wails in staccato. The next sound we hear? The thunder of Water Fall, roaring, unrelentlessly clearing and cleansing the decade death story of Ground Zero. Did you know the rescuers did not use that name for the downed towers and human wreckage – they called it The Mound. Life is still possible in a mound.
What’s in a name? Everything of meaning, a place’s story. Names are a conjuring of sorts–naming calls something into existence. Sunday’s anniversary events are the most dramatic, public ceremony to date to re-story this site of national and personal disaster. Once called: mound, ground zero, a hole (ouch, Ray Nagin), now “The World Trade Center and the National September 11th Memorial and Museum.” Did it work?
Let’s take a look at 3 ceremonial medicines set in motion from the Memorial:
- A decade of time to unravel the violence of mere seconds: In minutes, 3000 people were massacred, too many vaporized, to few remains discernible from the dust. Ever notice how in wisdom stories and mythic tales events take a long time - a story requires 40 days and 40 nights to tell, a castaway boy returns as a man, kingdoms sleep for 100 years — deep transformation takes time.
- Public and political debates were fought to find an identity, a new purpose for 16 acres of Lower Manhattan: in the three phases of initiatory ceremony the middle stage is characterized as being de-fleshed of prior identity, in complete flux like the chrysalis phase of the butterfly (I remember the shock when I first learned the pupa is ooze and not just a worm getting dressed up in pretty wings in a very small dressing room); officials argued desperately for a new identity structure while the rescuers and clearing crews intimately handled the life-cum-dust; ooze is ooze.
- Reflection pools, acre wide pools of waterfalls that cascade to bedrock: The Twin Towers lived in the sky, the element of air, still yet soaring upward, icons of financial power, visible for miles, masculine in form, a vying neighbor for the sky-god; and now the Memorial dressed in element of water, in constant motion downwards, into the earth, disappearing from sight but alive in sound, feminine in form, flowing back to the mother-god.
Despite the fact America does not have much practice at healing war torn homeland – acknowledging Pearl Harbor yet the conspicuous absence of efforts in Miami, East LA, and Anytown USA where gang and drug violence occurs – I think the memorial fountain park in New York is potent ceremonial grounds to catapult soulful recuperation for both our culture and the land.
In terms of placemaking here is why: a man-made disaster of epic proportion requires epic counterbalance to bring that place and its people back into symmetry. The remedy for the image of the plumed tumbling towers embedded in our culture’s psyche is another vast image that unbinds the event and releases the trapped story of terror. Such iconic medicine comes from collective, archetypal wisdom.
I would like to say they must have had a psychologist-of-culture on staff for the New York Memorial to assure my own job security, but the truth of it is that there are iconic medicines with such agency they cannot be kept out of human expression when the world is in such essential need. This 8 acre shrine is the dynamic, organic result of a community working with artists to craft healing, sacred place by listening –to world soul.
The Ceremony to heal the land and our culture started 10 years ago and we are still in it. How do you see it?