Spirituality & Practice

. Used by permission.

After much soul searching, New York journalists Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat found themselves repeatedly returning to the spiritual practices of compassion, connections, and unity conveyed so beautifully in Thich Nhat Hanh's classic poem "Call Me By My True Names."

This Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist refuses to divide the world into easily identifiable victims and villains. With powerful prose and vivid imagery, he reaches out to take into his heart all those who are suffering — the innocent and the violent, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressors. In "Call Me by My True Names," he practices radical empathy as he identifies with a frog and the snake that eats it, then with a starving child in Uganda and the arms merchant who sells deadly weapons to Uganda. In a very poignant passage, he describes himself as a 12-year-old girl raped by a sea pirate and as the pirate whose "heart [is] not yet capable of seeing and loving."

World Trade Center


No one, Thich Nhat Hanh demonstrates in this poem, can be excluded from our thoughts and prayers. Even elements of the natural world and things are to be cherished as recipients of our compassion. Even the perpetrators of horrible violence are part of the many names we call ourselves. "Please call me by my true names," he pleads, "so I can see that my joy and pain are one . . . and the door of my heart could be left open, the door of compassion."

Here we offer a new poem, based on his classic.


Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

I am a World Trade Center tower, standing tall in the clear blue sky, feeling a violent blow in my side, and

I am a towering inferno of pain and suffering imploding upon myself and collapsing to the ground.

May I rest in peace.

I am a terrified passenger on a hijacked airplane not knowing where we are going or that I am riding on fuel tanks that will be instruments of death, and

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