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© 2001, Joyce A. Kovelman, Ph.D., Ph.D.


I awoke on September 11, 2001, totally unaware of what was happening on the other side of America. My family called and told me to turn on my television set. As I watched the TV screen, the horrendous events of this infamous day were just beginning to unfold. I looked at the screen, unable to avert my eyes, and feeling that I was immersed in a movie and there was no way out. Everything was so large, so heinous, and so surreal that I couldn't quite grasp the significance of it all. On September 11th our country lost over 7,000 lives, thousands of families and businesses were destroyed, and America lost its virginity and its innocence.


Life has changed! The belief that all is well and time stands still has been ripped from our psyches, and we face a world with very different rules and difficult possibilities. Our world has become smaller while our problems have become larger. On the positive side, America stands united as never before. Our patriotism is awesome and our determination to prevail is astounding. We are one people, one in spirit, and one in heart. When Policemen, Firemen and volunteers went into the World Trade Center to search for survivors, they did not go in looking for a white man or a black woman or a muslim child. They searched only for a human being in all its flavors, colors and ethnicities. We are one in our human-ness and in our pain!


The negative aspects of terrorism are all too visible: loss of life, devastation, economic recession, the end of certainty, a lack of safety to go about one's daily life, and concern for our future. Terror and fear have entered our country, our homes, our lives and our hearts. Terror has taken us into WAR.


As I watched the events of the next six weeks play out, I tried to make some sense of it all. Whoever mastermind the events of these past weeks knew exactly what they were doing and what they wished to accomplish. Events were meticulously planned and executed, and operatives were placed throughout the United States and throughout our countries infrastructure. All this was going on, while we went confidentially about our daily lives. We were into denial, thinking everyone loved America and wanted to live the same values and lifestyle we so enjoyed. We knew terrorism was growing abroad and reaching to all the corners of our world. We witnessed the growing helplessness, poverty, despair and finally rage in more and more nations. As I looked into the eyes of those who rioted and protested against the United States, I shuddered. The level of hate, rage, and violence was almost unbearable; certainly it was terrifying. Why I wondered, did they hate us so!


I looked at the positive and the negative emotions of humankind flooding the TV screen and recognized the intensity and danger of our present situation. The conflicts between the forces of good and evil, hate and compassion, love and fear, as well as war and peace were unfolding before our eyes. The problems, the causes, the challenges and solutions needed would have to be addressed if our country and our world were to survive.

What I have discovered is that the events of September 11, 2001 are indeed between the forces of good and evil, but there is good and evil on both sides. TheTerrorists represent raw emotion. Theirs are the emotions of poverty, hunger, helplessness, despair, rage and betrayal. Emotions without control, without discernment, and without reason are very dangerous indeed. Yet on the other side of this war, we find reason, logic, objectivity, but very little outward emotion. Ours is a world of materialism, technology, affluence, domination and power. But reason without emotional harmony also distorts reality and creates its own tyranny.


As a Neuroscientist, I know that the two halves of the brain specialize in different aspects of perception. The left hemisphere deals largely with cognition, logic, abstract thinking and reason, while the right hemisphere specializes in the intuitive, spatial, artistic and emotional facets of perception. In the mental disorder known as schizophrenia, reason and emotion no longer work together. The consequences of such a split between reason and emotion is insanity. Indeed, there is a growing number of people who believe that our present world already teeters on the verge of insanity.


Clearly, emotion without reason or reason without emotion doesn't work! Nor are emotion and reason either bad or evil. Moreover, whenever the two ways of understanding our world work together, we achieve a fully balanced and integrated view of our self and of reality. To become a mature humanity, and to attain enlightenment requires the cooperation, balance and the skillful blending of the two. I believe that our world is in the midst of a confrontation between unchecked emotion and unchecked reason, and the solution is to find a way to bring these two ways of being in the world into harmony and balance. Without the integration of reason and emotion, we are not whole, we are not free, and we cannot achieve harmony and peace within our own bodies, minds, souls nor our world.

Over 140 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln reminded America that "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Today we must recognize that a world divided against itself also cannot stand. Our immediate task is to become One World and One Humanity. In its response to terrorism, America - the land of the brave and the free - has been given the opportunity and the awesome responsibility to usher in a world that can deal with both emotion and reason, with freedom and responsibility, with terrorism and with peace. Let us make it so.

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