Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 and #YOLO

Today is 9/11/2012, eleven years since the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. The memory of that morning is still fresh in my mind: the surprise, confusion and true shock. What exactly did this mean? From the beginning my fellow seminarians, students and myself at the University of St. Thomas could tell that this event was DIFFERENT.

How different it would be, we didn't know but we knew it was different. We didn't know that thousands of our peers would end up dying thousands of miles away in Afganistan and Iraq. We didn't know that our entire experience of air travel would change. We didn't know how but we knew things were different. 

The biggest difference that the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 brought was a challenge to our innocence and mortality. What do I mean? That day and the aftermath have become a great challenge to how my generation thinks about ourselves. We are no longer invincible. There are 20 year olds missing limbs. There are 20 year old widows. There are orphans who's mommy or daddy should barely be 30. 

What does that mean about the way we live now?

It makes me think of #YOLO. You Only Live Once. #YOLO has burned up twitter and facebook as a hot trend of the summer. If you look into it, you'll usually find #YOLO as the reason for people doing things they normally wouldn't. From the mildly innocent, like gorging on a cheeseburger or sneaking into a concert to much worse behavior that can lead to life long consequences and scars of emotional, physical and spiritual kind.

#YOLO in these cases is a throw-away line. A shrug of indifference as to why someone tried. But doesn't that miss the point? "#YOLO, so don't hold anything back. #YOLO, so take big risks and don't think about the consequences, just think about the moment."

If #YOLO is true: you only live once. Then it seems like they are both on to part of a big picture while missing the rest. You only have one life, one now that could end at any moment. 9/11/01 crystalized that for my generation. We are all one heart beat away from death. So what to do about it? Rare things are usually precious things. Gold, diamonds, championships, friends, love- we treasure them because they are rare. If we only have one life, it is should be the most precious thing we have. So while we don't want to waste it by inaction (#YOLO!) we don't want to waste it foolishly either.

#YOLO should be a call to find two things: true courage and a community that will help you live that life well. Since we only live once, need courage to make the most of it. True courage is neither foolhardy nor timid. The foolhardy woman takes every chance without any calculation. They might seem attractive for a moment or two but soon we realize that they miss out on the precious character of life. The timid man never takes any chances but allows the threats and possible downfalls to cut off his decisions. We should seek true and wise courage.

We also need a community that will help you live. A place where friends will treasure your own life as it ticks by into the unknown. A place where you can learn to love your friends lives as they tick off into the unknown. This is what I love about being a Catholic and being surrounded by intentional Catholic friends. They understand that each of us only has one life, one now, and that each of us is one heart beat away from death. They want me and want themselves to get the most out of life in the best way. They want me to know that I am known, loved, and cared for.

On this anniversary of the terror of 9/11/01, remember the truth: #YOLO. Seek to understand and possess true and wise courage. Seek to find a community that knows, loves and cares for you because #YOLO.

Cross posted at www.piusxiinewman.com


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