My dad has never been a particularly emotional or sentimental person. That is not at all to say that he doesn't care or feel things; however, understanding the ways in which he cares is more about recognizing and deciphering body language and subtle nuances. When 9/11 happened I was in college, at an age where I was still acutely attuned to my parents' guidance and advice. I was particularly curious as to how my dad would react. He is the preeminent student of New York. He’s fascinated by the city and its ins and outs, knows the history of every architecturally significant building here and has a working knowledge of the city’s public transit system that could put the most seasoned MTA executive to shame. The ‘I <} NY’ shirt was truly intended for people like my dad.
On the day of, or perhaps the day after, the attacks I got an email from my Dad. It was a disappointingly short note, with remarks to the effect that he couldn’t help but be reminded of this famous quote from Omar Khayyam’s ‘The Rubaiyat’
“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it”
My first reaction was utter disappointment. This was the first time my family had ever faced something so emotionally fraught, and I had felt sure that the silver lining to this apocalyptic cloud would be that we’d finally open ourselves up and show more depth of feeling. And yet, all I could think was that this quote was simply cold. Was he telling me that we needed to simply shrug our shoulders and get on with things?
Over the ensuing years I’ve thought back on that email and that quote with resentment that has evolved to resignation. These days, I can’t help but think that perhaps my dad was (is) simply a realist. In his nearly 77 years, a lot has happened. And once a thing is done, the world is forever changed. Khayyam’s quote may just be the precursor to today’s (and my most hated) pithy quote ‘It is what it is.’
Jobs are being lost at a frightening rate. Businesses are closing. Our country – and the world – is sliding down a steeply curved roller coaster hill. There doesn’t appear to be an upswing to this bleak horizon. But what are we to do? We can’t change what’s happened. The moving finger has writ. I’m afraid it’s still writ-ing. Our tears won’t wash out a bit of it. Now what? Quite simply, we must go on.