9/11 Thoughts, Mozart and the Architecture of Mood

Architects create environments, and we each create our own environments (of mood) by the choices we make: what to think about, what to let go of, where to go, what to do, what to say.  As I was running an errand on the way to the office today, feeling a bit anxious about tomorrow, I popped on the AM news channel (to see if the world was still safe), but they were running a commercial involving sky diving, of all things, so I quickly flipped to Sirius XM Symphony Hall, and was fortunate enough to catch the last half of Mozart’s Symphony #20 in D Major, performed by the Academy of Ancient Music (who I’ve seen perform live once).  Thanks Mozart, once again, for architecting a paradigm shift; a transformative experience of mood, one that transcends space, time, and circumstance.  I have had this experience with Mozart many, many times.  His music creates a “mood environment” that reminds me of beauty, of the nobility of human spirit, of the capability of a genius to create something perfect (a work of art, writing, music) that can in fact, instantly uplift, just by its existence.  Symphony # 20  was composed when Mozart was only 16.  It has simplicity, delicacy, and feels light yet triumphant.  Just right for today!

Today is a lot of things.  It is the anniversary of my mother’s death.  It is the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  It is a working Saturday for me (ugh).  But, it is also the day my business partner became a grandpa for the first time (congrats to the whole clan on the arrival of Alison!).  But, the economy is still bad, and politicians have the country more polarized than ever.  But, the clouds played a rousing drum solo (thunderstorm) this morning, and rained and hailed (in September in CA!) to remind us that many things both scary and wonderful are beyond our control.  It is indeed hard to remember to reframe things.

Last night, at a Synagogue Shabbat Service, I was asked to read this brief piece, which is an edited excerpt of a larger piece written by a real 9/11 survivor (you can find the larger piece by Googling “My name is Usman Farman”):

My name is Usman Farman. I graduated from Bentley with a Finance degree last May. I am 21 years old, turning 22 in October.  I am Pakistani, and I am Muslim. Until September 11th 2001, I used to work at the World Trade Center in building #7.  I had friends and acquaintances who [also worked in there]… Some made it out, and some are still buried under the rubble.

We were evacuated to the North side of building 7. Still only 1 block from the towers. The security people told us to go north and not to look back. 5 city blocks later I stopped and turned around to watch. With a thousand people staring, we saw in shock as the first tower collapsed….. The next thing I remember is that a dark cloud of glass and debris about 50 stories high came tumbling towards us. I turned around and ran as fast as possible and I fell down trying to get away.

I was on my back, facing this massive cloud that was approaching… everything was already dark. I normally wear a pendant around my neck, inscribed with an Arabic prayer for safety. . A Hasidic Jewish man came up to me and held the pendant in his hand, and looked at it. He read the Arabic out loud for a second. What he said next, I will never forget. With a deep Brooklyn accent he said “Brother, if you don’t mind, there is a cloud of glass coming at us, grab my hand, let’s get the hell out of here.” He helped me stand up, and we ran for what seemed like forever without looking back. He was the last person I would ever have thought, who would help me. If it weren’t for him, I probably would have been engulfed in shattered glass and debris.

Today is a lot of things.  What is it for you?  What are your thoughts on the eve of 9/11 x10?  We can hate or we can love.  We can help or we can hurt.  Usman Farman closed out his brief essay / speech with this thought:  “The one thing that won’t help, is if we fight amongst ourselves, because it is then that we are doing exactly what they want us to do, and I know that nobody here wants to do that.”

The President would like tomorrow to be a day of service.  I will be focusing on “homeland security” – literally – installing child safety gates, door locks, bed rails, etc. for a new phase of grandparenting – having both an almost 3 year old and a 5 month old at our home regularly for child care.  It will be both a chore and a pleasure, a pathway to the incredible joy I have at being a grandfather.

Today is also Christopher Hogwood’s 70th birthday.  Christopher is the founder of the Academy of Ancient Music, who I thank for giving me perspective this morning with their wonderful performance of Mozart’s 20th Symphony.

Today is death and birth, like every day.  I hope you all have peace, and can “architect” a positive mood tomorrow, and if you have grandchildren, or someday will, that we can pass along this peace for generations to come!

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