Bin Laden is dead. Now what?

It’s celebrated across the globe – bin Laden is dead! I watch my fellow Americans shouting with joy, texting the world and chanting at ball games. I can hear the song from the Wizard of Oz, “ding-dong the witch is dead, the wicked witch,” and tweets galore announcing the “good news.” I release a heavy sigh.

I don’t even know where to begin with my own thoughts and feelings. I remember standing at what is now Ground Zero watching the towers being built, and I remember watching them fall, taking 3,000 people down with them. Most of my memories around bin Laden are certainly not fond ones. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that anytime I have heard his name or seen it in print, it is always attached to violence. A sad and powerful legacy for any human being.

One of the guiding spiritual principles in my life is the practice of integrating into myself that which is outside me that I most detest, am afraid of, disagree with, and basically see as different or separate from myself. This includes experiences, ideals, religions, beliefs, values and most of all – people. I do this because I believe they are aspects of myself that are unlived and unloved. Clearly I enjoy a challenge!

This global reaction to bin Laden’s death shows me all the things I see as different from myself. Of course his life’s work and the continuing work of Al Qaeda angers me, stirs resentment, worry and sadness. Yet it is imperative that I become “friendly” with that which scares me, that which awakens my own inner terror. Storms are emerging in my own heart today, a tempest of confusion and conflict.

While I don’t feel “glad” he is dead, I can understand why others might. When I sit still long enough, I can feel why, for some, this is justice being served, and for others it might be labeled as revenge. I can immerse myself into the experience some are having of feeling relieved, and others are worried about retaliation and what the future holds. What a kaleidoscope of emotions and expressions being offered to us. Is it any wonder my insides are swirling?

This is the human condition. I don’t have to agree with anyone’s beliefs or convictions, but it is imperative I remain open. I cannot do anything to change those around me, certainly not the world at this moment, yet the most important thing I can do is take the events that have unfolded in the past 12 hours and discover what is mine to do – and right now it is to remain open.

This man, this stranger, this global criminal, adds awareness to my world, whether I like it or not, and shows me there are other ways to think and be and live beyond my own little corner of the world. Remaining open is not acquiescing or tacit agreement, it is the recognition that connecting with the global heart means connecting with those that we inherently disagree with or even despise and hate. And my path in life reminds me that being open is an acknowledgment of the gifts every stranger brings – those most like me and those seemingly so different. Some days it’s tough to be open – days like today.

At the moment I guess the overarching emotion inside me is sadness. Sadness over the events of 9/11, sadness that war continues in our world when, as divine creatures, we are capable of so much more, sadness that people can celebrate so joyously over the death of a human. And finally I imagine the sadness of his mother.

Evagrius of Ponticus, an early desert monastic, counseled young monastics: “First pray for the gift of tears, to soften by compunction the inherent hardness of your soul.” Weeping is a life-giving experience. Nowhere is it more obvious then for those of us immersed in the spring rains that bring life outside our windows each day. If we do not weep in our own lives, we shall never understand other human beings. Weeping washes clean those unloved portions of ourselves, allowing the possibility of life being born anew in us and as us.

Today is a call for us to shed some tears for the inhumane conditions around the world that keep us trapped: those who cannot find work, those who go hungry, the war-torn lands littered with the bodies of the innocent, those left stranded from natural disasters, for the women of the world who are trapped in religious silence and told it’s God’s will for them. There are some things in life not meant to be endured. And it is good, true and most beautiful for us to shed tears, it is a divine expression of our humanness.

The tears we shed today quell the flames that ignite hate, distrust and violence of tomorrow because what we cry about points to what we care about. So my work today is to discover what I care about when the storms of confusion and conflict are raging inside me. Today I remain open, sharing the gift of my tears, watering the seeds of humility, giving voice to the tenderness alive in me – teaching me how to live gently with my whole world. Deep within every struggle is the infinite potential of new life for us, of becoming reborn ourselves, so I ask you, what do you care about today?


  1. Lenore Bush May 2, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Well said! Nice to meet you spirit!

  2. Lysa A-B May 2, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks for this wonderful posting. I too released a heavy sigh this morning as I watched the jubilant reactions of my fellow Americans on TV, and read the overjoyed “dancing on the coffin” comments on FB. Despite the many things he has done and convinced others to do in the name of…what/whomever, I know he was not born that way, that he was born a pure child of God, just like I was, yet something happened in his life that changed everything. So instead of remaining in the sadness, or joining the jubilant, I sat in the silence and said a prayer…for him, his family, all those involved in the recent events, and for the global community, that peace and love would soon prevail. Thanks again, Kelly.

  3. admin May 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Well said. First we must connect with the sadness, yet we don’t stay there, we transmute that energy of sadness and suffering into care, compassion and commitment!

  4. Jim B. May 2, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Wow, all I want to say is thank you Kelly. It’s as if you were inside my head and heart. Thank you for this sacred expression.

  5. Deanna May 2, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    You could not have expressed my thoughts on this subject any more beautifully than this. Thank you!

  6. Lou Elder May 2, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Good job of getting your thoughts into words. I share many of the feelings, but some I can’t really name. Sadness for sure – because one of my countrymen killed a person; because so many of my friends and acquaintances (and I’m sure some family and loved ones) are so absolutely giddy. I’m sad because they think that killing someone is going to change something. Most of the time I really do believe the world is moving forward, but then I realize we do slide back occasionally. Thank you for opening this conversation.

  7. marianne May 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you for this most thoughtful, sobering post. When I heard the news, I felt a heaviness in me that someone born in Spirit chose a life of such incredible violence. I reminded myself that no matter what he did, we came from the same loving Source, and in spite of everything, he was my brother, and I wish him God Speed.

    It is my prayer that instead of celebrating such a tragic death, that if we truly take the time to see and hear each other with our hearts, perhaps we can avoid more Bin Ladens more 9/11s, more grief and heartbreak.

    This is a tall order, but we were created in Love, By Love. Love and compassion are our natural states of being if only we allow them to shine forth.

  8. Angie O. May 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Kelly, once again you’ve inspired me. Thank you for writing about a subject that is so difficult to explore and understand. I appreciate your willingness to “put it out there” and give a voice to what so many of us are feeling. Many blessings my friend. I’m proud to know you!

  9. Diane May 2, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Today – I care about everything you mentioned.
    And I am grateful that you took the time to share them with us.
    I cried several times today trying to make sense of what my Spirit is called to do at this time. Your words have given me Light, Guidance, Hope, Comfort and Love. Shine on till tomorrow…

  10. Valorie Wells Fenton May 2, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Thank you for helping form my answer to my 9 year old granddaughter’s assertion that “what America did is revenge and now we are bullies.”
    While part of me smiles patiently at a child’s wish for a world without revenge, another part of me was appalled and ashamed at the party-like atmosphere outside the Capital last night. At one point, the news cameras showed two college-age shirtless,boys jumping up and slamming their chests against each other in some sort of testosterone-laden display of victory. It made me very sad.
    Death is not a party. Revenge cannot be a victory.
    And now God is urging me to face my own fears of retaliation.
    Trust, says God. Just trust.

  11. lisa jonick May 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    “And finally I imagine the sadness of is mother.” That is the one I can’t shake today. My little toddler was telling me a story and my mind wandered to todays main event. My eyes filled up with tears thinking about bin Laden as a baby and how is Mother must be feeling. How does a little boy become a mass murderer? I can’t celebrate today. Anyway you look at it, it is all sad. The tragedies of 9/11 and the tragedy of a life gone so wrong.

  12. Mark Delaplane May 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    You put into words what I was feeling.

  13. Yvonne May 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    You have put into words what my heart was feeling. You do that a lot.

  14. Carmen May 2, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Very well said. One of my friends father was in one of the towers that the plane hit that day. He was a physician attending a medical conference.

    I also had a friend in new york who was witnessing the entire event. I recall calling her on her cell phone and listening to the erie sounds of the ambulance and her telling me how afraid she was, crying while telling me she could see the second building coming down before we were disconnected for a third time.

    My thoughts were with them both as I listen to the news. Comfort and closure for my friend who lost her father in new york and her uncle in Washington DC.

    Thank you so much for sharing your feelings. I too had mixed feelings since I don’t celebrate the loss of anyone. But I too had my mind on those affected by the tragedy and how the reminder of the look of despair and sound of pain in President Bush’s face and voice. I pray for President Obama and his family as well as our military men and women serving. I pray for protection and Guidance. Again thank you so much for saying pretty much what I was feeling inside. God Bless you.

  15. Janece Moment May 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Rev. Kelly. Thank you for your thoughts and sharing them here on your blog. Almost immediately after reading this, I watched a video on TED. Description:

    “Phyllis Rodriguez and Aicha el-Wafi have a powerful friendship born of unthinkable loss. Rodriguez’ son was killed in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001; el-Wafi’s son Zacarias Moussaoui was convicted of a role in those attacks and is serving a life sentence. In hoping to find peace, these two moms have come to understand and respect one another.”

    Here’s the link:

    I wept seeing, in action, what you had just written about. Thank you God for Kelly’s heart and for providing me an immediate, practical and beautiful example. Thank you, God!

    Blessings and love to you,

  16. Kathryn May 2, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    I appreciate your words and the effort you took to stop and reflect upon this subject which is painful to broach… Part of me also stepped back from the yahoos and bravado of the celebratory attitude prevailing in the aftermath of the death of an errant human being…Outwardly I nodded and agreed with people who were “happy” that osama bin laden was killed but inside me was the realization that I am called to “love my enemies” and to “rejoice not greatly when mine enemy stumbles…” …who am I to judge the sins of any other?…even someone as wrapped up in obvious evil as bin laden. Ultimately, I am grateful to have the knowledge I have of the Lord and the love I have from and towards others which saves me from a similar fate…It is thought provoking and very sad. I do acknowledge and celebrate the bravery of the Navy Seals but do not envy them their task or deed…Thank you for your insights, wisdom, and for risking an extraordinary view…

  17. Rev. Bronte Colbert May 2, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Nicely said, Kelly. Why should we be celebrating any sort of “killing”? Instead, we can focus on & celebrate Life, Love, Peace — and find someone to hug today.
    When I let go of the idea of mortality and “death,” knowing that we are spiritual be-ings –dancing onto this earth plane to experience and create — then it alters the news. When I realize God is only-good and present in everything and everyone, then it alters my views on others.
    While I don’t feel that someone who is becoming still, aligning, feeling and listening to Spirit can purposely act in violence toward another, I can look at things in the world that I don’t want more of, then correct that which is in my power — only my own thoughts, my own actions, my own feelings of “other” and anger and unforgiveness.
    Soooo — if people throwing confetti and singing vindictive-seeming chants, makes them feel better, so be it… but I hope they too, listen to the Voice of peace and love and move into what for them may be a more aligned state of be-ing. Hugs to all ~ ~ ~

  18. kelly isola May 2, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    probably because i am cut from your cloth mom…

  19. Katie Cranor May 2, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I just found you on Facebook and am so impressed with your thoughts….you found the words I pondered all day. Thank you so much.

  20. Patricia Bratton May 2, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Thank you for expressing my feeling so well. God bless us all.

  21. Linda De Narde May 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    well put, thank you , as I had a hard time in rejoicing in any one being killed, but also felt and understood what most were feeling, I am glad to have someone like minded that had to courage to post this

  22. Jenny H. May 2, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Thank you, that was beautiful.

  23. Patricia Lucado May 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I am not powerless. I am going to share this on FB.

  24. Kristi Eckerson May 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    thank you for putting the words out there. I expressed bits and pieces of this all day as co-workers, colleagues and acquaintances expressed their various responses of triumph and glee. I am so glad and grateful to find this coherent and beautiful expression.
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  25. Hugh Smith May 2, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    Thank you. I’ve been uncomfortable with my feelings regarding this latest violence. You did a good job of articulating why I am uncomfortable.

  26. C. Lovick May 2, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I couldn’t have expressed my feelings any better.

  27. Birger May 3, 2011 at 3:52 am

    Hi Kelly BePeace sister – a global hug to you all the way from Denmark – its good to know that not all Americans are dancing in joy when a person is bombed.

  28. Beverly Becker Wood...... May 3, 2011 at 7:21 am

    How fine it is to awaken to your thoughts of love and compassion on/for a world where evil lurks. The feelings and thoughts of your soul remind us all that we are not a nation or even a world where all our hearts are made of stone. Just as we worship a God that is eternally alive so we know that the love He created is eternal. You words give proof of that.

  29. Michelle Parkins May 3, 2011 at 11:02 am

    What a wonderful way to remember and remind that we need to rise above base and negative attitudes. I was saddened to see so many people dancing in the streets and behaving as if it was Y2K. Death is never a celebration, no matters who’s it is.

    You have voiced my thoughts and more exceptionally well.

  30. Katherine Harrington May 3, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Thank you so much for your blog on this event. You so well expressed what I was feeling and took me on to the next level. And it was just good to know that I was not the only one who felt all the celebrating was just not right.

  31. Jan Ogle May 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Yes, Bin Laden was born pure and lovely like the rest of us. Somewhere along the way he was misguided to become the hatemonger that the world knows. I don’t harbor glee at this death, but I will admit to being glad he has left the face of this Earth to perhaps be reborn and try again to live a life that honors all, not destroys them.

  32. kelly isola May 3, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    I deeply appreciate your forthright openness. It is necessary to have the difficult conversations in life. Thank you!

  33. Donna May 3, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I related much to your poignant compassionate words. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  34. Marylou May 3, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Tonight I was searching online for a response from centers of worship regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden. As I watched the news I found myself agreeing with a young 8th grade boy who said that he “felt guilty” for “celebrating” the death of another.

    The reports of mass celebration and, worse, cartoons and jokes about the events surrounding this leaves me feeling guilty, unsettled, nervous, anxious… the list of feelings goes on.

    I wrote to the Minister of my Unity Center and asked if Unity had an official response on this issue. I said that I was curious and seeking guidance from religious and spiritual leaders on this topic.

    I am thankful that I found your post and the many responses you received. I realize that I am not alone in my thoughts and that brings me a sense of comfort.

    Thank you!

  35. Lynda Couch May 4, 2011 at 4:52 am

    Thank you Kelly……May Peace Prevail on Earth.

  36. Gregg May 4, 2011 at 11:43 am

    This article is more balanced than others I’ve read in the same vein. However, I think it’s important to understand that if you suggest to someone who’s celebrating the death of a mass murderer that this is no different from celebrating the death of innocents, he or she is going to shut you out and just completely reject what you’re saying. We have to acknowledge that there IS a moral difference between celebrating the death of someone who’s done great evil and celebrating the deaths of people who are just going about their lives. Give thanks at least for that degree of moral advancement and enlightenment.

    Keep in mind also that this is the first time in ten years that we have seen any kind of celebrations like this in this country. We haven’t celebrated the deaths of other al-Qaeda leaders or footsoldiers, and we certainly haven’t celebrated the deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire…even those who probably supported al-Qaeda.

    Also, I hesitate to make broad, corporate judgments about Americans based on the behavior of emotionally immature (and probably drunk) college boys.

    Bit by bit, fitfully, we ARE making moral progress. Overall, we recognize the shared humanity of our “enemies” to a much greater degree than we did in, say, WW2. We shouldn’t minimize this fact, nor should we read too much into these celebrations or let them discourage us.

  37. kelly isola May 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Thank Gregg for responding, and for your open candor and honesty. I have deeply appreciated all comments because they keep a conversation going that is necessary, not to mention it helps keep us connected.

    I am a little confused by your comment “if you suggest to someone who’s celebrating the death of a mass murderer that this is no different from celebrating the death of innocents…” I guess I don’t see where I said that. For me I don’t really celebrate the death of any human, although I have openly said that I can understand it. I too had a moment of relief and satisfaction when I heard he was dead. It is part of my human response, and I am not ashamed of it, I just need to make sure that response isn’t driving the boat! 😉 I think the response by the college boys made sense, given where they may be on their emotional and spiritual journey.

    I too believe we are making progress in our understanding and commitment to a shared humanity. I think the fact that we are not tolerant of tyrants is evident. I am in no way discouraged, nor have I been, by any of the events that have been unfolding, in fact, just the opposite is emerging for me. But first the emotional confusion and sadness was necessary and i discovered felt by many. What’s important is that we don’t stay there. What we cry over points to what we care about, now it’s time to put feet on what we are passionate about, what we care about and let the world see our commitment to this most precious shared humanity.

    Blessings to you, and thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I encourage everyone to speak what is in their hearts, it keeps us open to connect, learn new things. And for me, it supports me in widening my worldview by seeing through the eyes of other people.

  38. Maria May 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Thank you. I, too, have been feeling a great deal of sadness over the past few days, as well as confusion about what appears to be revelry in the streets. And like someone else here said, I’ve also been wanting to hear something – anything – from church leaders. I remember when Ted Bundy was executed, there were scores of people outside the prison cheering and yelling things like, “Burn, Bundy, burn!” It was frightening. And then I saw an interview with a minister from a nearby church who said that the crowd reminded him of the accounts of Romans cheering as Christians were being fed to lions. I still recall the look of shock and disbelief on his face. I know it isn’t the same thing, but it’s the image I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since Sunday night.

    Anyway, I truly appreciate your willingness to express your thoughts so openly. You’ve helped me a great deal.


  39. Gregg May 5, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Kelly, I guess the comment you are confused about wasn’t really directed at your article specifically. I have read a couple of articles by other people in a similar vein, and in those it did seem there was some moral equivalence evident. That approach might be fine for “preaching to the choir,” but I don’t think it would change many minds among the celebrators. I can understand it could be offensive to be told that celebrating the death of a man who killed 3,000 innocent people (and actually many more than that) is morally equivalent to celebrating the deaths of random members of the “enemy,” including children. Of course we would rather not see any death celebrated, but I think acknowledging that there is a genuine moral difference here is also important.

  40. kelly isola May 5, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks for the clarity Gregg. I too believe it is important to acknowledge that for some the celebration is necessary, I’m guessing there is great relief for thousands, even millions that he is dead. I can’t even begin to imagine the experience of being on the receiving end of his actions. It is difficult to see how the death of innocent people is the same as that of someone with so much blood on his hands. I think continued conversations about “moral equivalencies” is important because I know that not everyone views this the same. I am not interested in changing anyone’s mind as much as learning to understand their worldview and life experience, and yet there are others who are spending lots of time trying to get people to agree with them. It’s a crazy world we live. Like the Chinese say… may you always live in interesting times!

  41. kelly isola May 5, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I can’t even imagine Maria what that would have been like, all the chanting to burn Bundy! At that time I was probably too young to understand or even know who Ted Bundy was and what he had done. Kinda like Viet Nam, most al I know is from history books and tv shows, not because I was part of the energy of the time. It’s an interesting paradigm, and I think about the years to come when most people don’t know anyone remotely connected to Viet Nam, and Bin Laden is something to read about in the high school history book.

    So much pain, anger, hurt and grief. While it is not the same action as the Christians being thrown to the lions, it is the same energy, just manifesting differently. It’s warrior energy, highly charged with power – the primeval instinct to slay “dragons.” We all have it, some express it more than others, we just don’t want it driving the boat, but rather we want to learn to use the positive aspects of that kind of energy. Taking risks, speaking out, living on our growing edge, being brave and stepping into the unknown. That would be the positive aspects. Enough of my soapbox!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts… I am a little surprised to hear from people, such as yourself, that they are not hearing much from religious leaders. Seems to me this is the time we SHOULD BE speaking up! Blessings!

  42. Kelly Potter May 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Beautiful “spoken”. I can actually hear your voice whenever I read your written works. It’s a good, good thing!

  43. Steve May 7, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    While I am moved by your words, and agree with taking the moment to reflect and compose a loving response, I am clearly glad that Bin Laden is dead and celebrate it.

    It over-simplistic to think that action like this is not completely necessary and good. If I have cancer, is it wrong to want that cancer destroyed? Removed from my body? No. I would celebrate the “death” of cancer in my body. At the same time I would look deeply into what I could learn from it and and help others avoid it. But in the moment, I would celebrate its removal. Bin Laden was a cancer in our society.

    I look to nature for examples of how to live and love. Do animals not kill to protect their young? Their family, herd? We are animals too. We are spiritual beings, but we are also physical beings.

    If someone was attacking you, would you love him to stop? Or would you do what you had to stay alive?

    There is so much tragedy around this, and the call indeed is to remain open, learn, pray, and love as much as possible. But the call is also to take actions to protect lives in the now.

    I look forward to the day when we don’t need police, but in the meantime, I am grateful for them, and for the peace that we enjoy today because of pragmatic actions taken today.

    Attempting to balance realism with idealism.

    – Steve

  44. kelly isola May 7, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Well said Steve. As I mentioned, I experienced initial relief and “gladness,” for lack of a better word. And I believe we all move to our next experience of emotions at different rates and times. In no way do I over- simplify these events, they are certainly anything but simple! What I do celebrate is everyone having their own responses and the freedom to talk about it, like we are doing here. So thank you very much for adding to our conversation, sharing your inner world with the rest of us. Blessings!

  45. Lisa in DC May 8, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Kelly, I am heartened to see your alternative point of view on this whole tragedy and agree with you. I live four blocks from the White House and was among those at the “festivities” but I was not celebrating. I was deeply troubled to see so many younger people rejoicing with such gusto and displaying such macho nationalism (this type of stuff was not really even shown on the news–they only showed toned-down versions of the reality, I can tell you). All I could think was what Nazi Germany must have been like in the 30’s when the youth were so nationalistic, full of hate and ready to believe anything their leaders told them (and worse DO anything, absolutely ANYTHING!) 🙁 Others in the crowd with similar looks on their faces shared my concerns as well–I know from talking to them. I do fear we are only headed towards more war frankly, and this act was definitely a morale boost to the troops.

    Back to the important points you make above, I cannot help but wonder what path bin Laden might have taken had he been surrounded by loving, accepting people who saw him as the fragment of God that he is (that we all are). Hate and violence only begets more hate and violence, so the response we see among our fellow citizens IS going to have an affect upon us all. If only we could focus on the fact that Love & Peace create more Love & Peace…

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