THE BLOG
05/02/2011 11:33 am ET Updated Jul 02, 2011

Finding Closure in Osama Bin Laden's Death

If you want a closure beyond revenge, check out Carla Shapiro's hand calligraphed obituaries of those who died on 9 - 11.

We often talk about terrible tragedy as the time when the artists have to do our work for us. I am thinking now of Carla Shapiro, (Carla Shapiro.org) whose work provides a complex view of culture. In her work, we find both the recognition of the violent tragedy that occurred and fresh multifaith rituals and symbols that will lead us towards recognition of our common humanity.

Carla hand calligraphed the obituaries of all those who died in 9 - 11 by hand on white sheets. She then "weathered" them by hanging them across the Esopus Creek near her home upstate. She marveled at what happened in this weathering: the calligraphies turned into ancient appearing religious scripts. She then photographed them in large and small ways -- allowing people to hold in their hand a symbol of weathered grief. When hung, they look like Tibetan Prayer flags. They flutter in the wind, allowing motion towards closure to be imagined.

In this early time after Osama bin Laden's death, the nation turns to the meaning of the word closure. Ten years ago a terrible thing happened. The anniversary itself is begging us to close this account and its accounting. If revenge could have worked to create closure, revenge would already have its revenge. In the death of the personification of the terrorist act, we have a chance for another kind of closure. Enough, we say, when there is enough blood upon blood. Bastante, in the Spanish, which often has a stronger sound. When the bombs fail us, the artists help us. They are like prayers, which also savage the power of revenge. These prayers flutter in obituaries, the words of which do eventually begin to fade into all the words people have spoken.

Those who know closure, personally, intimately, know that it never really happens. The door to the lost normal only becomes less stuck. When closure sneaks up on you, you can cross its threshold, both directions, back into the past and forward into the future. You find a key that unlocks another kind of door, the one that imagines your life, or your nation's life, is not ruined, that there might yet be hope for you.

Today, with yet another death, marking death, which marked death, which marked death, a flutter of memory in a hand written obituary matters. It brings what closure is possible.