Living through challenging times can bring out a blazing new spirit in people. Mark Matousek asks an extraordinary panel of thinkers, writers and spiritual leaders: What's the best way to carry on when things are shaky?
The Reverend Calvin Butts
Pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City
"Obviously there is evil in the world, but it's important to see the love that's outpouring: You can see a much larger capacity for compassion than for evil, and that ultimately good will triumph. The new does not come without some pain. All of this can be seen as a breaking in. The world will never be the same again. But it won't be different in terms of evil. It will be different in more aggressive patterns of good. "
Author of many novels, including The House of Spirits and Daughter of Fortune. Her most recent novel is Portrait in Sepia (Flamingo).
"The extraordinary thing is that in 24 hours you learn to adapt. You go on with your life because life goes on. You can see this in anyone who has survived a traumatic situation. You get up on your feet. You do not let the bullies put you on the floor."
Reporter for the New York Times and coauthor of Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War
"One thing I saw during the Gulf War is that when Americans need to learn about something, we do. The more you learn, the better able you are to cope as a citizen. As Americans, we now realize the urgent need to press our government to do the right thing, to make public heatlh—the safety of drinking water and food supplies—a top priority."
Author of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.
"The important thing is not to deaden ourselves to the reality of other nations, other people or other religions by falling into the same error of conceptualizing who they are. When you look at history, the greatest evils of humanity are perpetrated by normal citizens, by groups, by religions."
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Ireland
"When the initial terror passes, a feeling of steadiness sets in. People simply learn to cope. In places such as Northern Ireland and Lebanon, where violence occurs more frequently, citizens develop surprising qualities. I used to enjoy going to Belfast at the height of the troubles because people had the most wonderful black sense of humor, marvelous resiliency, an unshakable sense of community."
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Presidential historian and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
"What you see from other periods of great difficulty, and are seeing now when people band together to defy the enemy, is that fighting spirit. Not allowing the terrorists, Nazis or whomever to win by breaking our spirit. It's not that fear is taken away, but this passion not to be broken becomes greater than fear. Being part of a group gives you courage that you might not have individually. Most of the time, "nation" is an abstraction. But when a crisis happens, you remember in your heart what it means to be an American living in this country. Being part of something larger than yourself gives you an extra sense of strength."
Winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize and author of Night
"This has been America's finest hour. I would not say that from horror comes goodness—that would be giving horror too much credit. But goodness prevails in spite of horror. And finally we must have hope. Even when there is no hope—as Albert Camus once said—we must invent it."
From the December 2001 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!