Monday, October 25, 2010

THE MESSAGE


Love Revealed, Greensboro, NC

May doubt and fear be replaced by a growing trust in the presence of a greater creator all around you today.

My wife of forty years and I liked to walk together through a small local park for the conversation, exercise, and fresh air and to view the beauty of the present moments along the meandering paths. It was a nice break from the rigors of fighting breast cancer and we had both come to terms with the reality of our mortal existence. On an early July morning as we started our walk, Karen remarked that she simply didn’t have the strength to walk very far, so we sat down on a wooden bench near the parking lot. I liked to photograph whatever was in full glory on a given day. We all see in life what we look for in life. My eye immediately caught the bright white petals of Magnolia blooms close to us. The filtered morning light cast a contrasting hue on the blooms and on one bloom in particular that must have just opened within minutes of our arrival. There were other blooms in various stages of life next to this particular bloom which I also photographed, but this one unblemished bloom was special. I returned to the bench and showed the pure white image to Karen and we both marveled at its flawless beauty. We lingered there for awhile, and then returned home.

Karen spent the balance of the day resting as we thought the latest chemo treatment was especially potent. The next morning she awoke uncharacteristically confused and our Oncology staff advised me to call an ambulance immediately. That marked our last trip together to the park and the hospital.

As I drove past the small park this week, it suddenly occurred to me to seek out the immaculate image that had been revealed to us on that cool summer’s morn. I easily found the photo file dated July 1, 2008. I now recall how much peace the image had instilled in both of us at the time. We didn’t know that the cancer which had been held at bay was out of control and would shortly end Karen’s brave fight. But as I now have the benefit of the passage of time to reflect, I’m confident that God was revealing his pure love and presence to both of us, enabling us to persevere for the following fifteen days, and providing us with a message of lasting peace in the grand scheme of life, death and renewal. It was a message not conveyed by words, but an image of our creator who dwells in all that is good.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

IMMORTALITY


Blue Bird Rainbow, Internet Domain

WHAT WE DO FOR OURSELVES,
DIES WITH US.
WHAT WE DO FOR OTHERS,
LIVES ON.


What will be the legacy of your life? It may have a lot to do with the language of your life. The language that many are subconsciously reading through your actions and words every day of your life. Especially young impressionable children and adults. And also those in need of your time and talents and yes, your love and caring for your fellow travelers on this journey that we encounter along the way of life. That influence, either conscious or unconscious, becomes woven into the tapestry of their shared lives as well to perpetuate both your memory and your spirit. Make it for good and the human race can hopefully continue to evolve towards a higher level of existence.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

THE SECOND MOUSE


Run Mickey!, Internet Domain

"The early bird gets the worm,

but the second mouse gets the cheese!"


It's not always the best idea to be number one! My former company was quite content to let the other fellows take the high risks in hopes of high rewards. When they did hit it big, we simply swooped in right behind them with overwhelming resources and capatilized on their good fortune. That reinforced one of my favorite observations on being a pioneer--he's the guy with all the arrows in his back! It can be very profitable and much less painful to stay on the "leading edge' versus crossing over to the "bleeding edge"!

Friday, October 8, 2010

AMERICAN GOTHIC JUXTAPOSED





American Gothic, Chicago AI
But Seriously, Internet Domain
Different Perspective, Columbus, OH
No Laughing, Columbus, OH


A small house in Iowa built in the Carpenter Gothic style caught the eye of American painter Grant Wood in 1930. He decided to paint the house with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house”. So, he painted the house, added his sister and then added his dentist to the scene. The Gothic window, the stitching in the farmer’s overalls and the shape of his face all conform to the three-pronged shape of the pitch fork. Wood’s sister Nan didn’t like the notion of being perceived as married to a man twice her age, so she promoted the concept that this painting depicted a man and his daughter. The painting earned Woods a bronze prize at Chicago’s Art Institute and they bought it. Although art critics assumed it was a satire on rural America, it became a symbol of the American pioneering spirit at the onset of the Great Depression.

Over the years the image of the grim-faced couple has morphed into a cultural icon, mainly due to its adaptation to parodies in our popular scene. Woods probably helped to promote this when he was quoted as stating, "All the good ideas I've ever had came to me while I was milking a cow." It was ironic to photograph one of the Chicago Art Institute’s most frequented artworks and then drive through Columbus, Ohio to find one of the parodies on the brick wall of a side street—a street so isolated that through truck traffic was prohibited. I mean, seriously, who better to send that particular message to the local populace than none other than Grant Wood’s own puritanical dentist!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

HOMELESS SLEEP



Homeless Sleep I, Chicago, IL
Homeless Sleep II, Chicago, IL


I captured these two images on park benches from bridges that overlooked public spaces in downtown Chicago. They probably could have been taken in any city in the world at any time. I don’t know for certain that these fellow travelers are homeless, but it would seem to be a good assumption. They are nameless and certainly faceless in the second image. We had noticed the first man wildly gesturing and talking to no one in particular on Michigan Avenue earlier in the day. He perhaps represents a significant percent of homeless people that have a mental disability. A somewhat familiar homeless man in the local area has been living on a park bench near an underpass for years. A reporter that befriended him later learned that he has a family in another state, but he cannot bear to live anywhere but alone and is incapable of most human interaction. Although it was a relatively chilly October day, the other homeless person who could be either male or female, was sleeping barefoot on a bench. I’ve never been without a warm bed at night. I have no idea what it must be like for these people.

I’ve volunteered to serve at homeless shelters in the past. That experience helped to provide both a face and a soul to the homeless for me. One particular evening after a brief worship service led by the shelter manager, he asked if anyone would like to give a testamonial for the shelter. The first man to stand up noted that he was an addict that had once stabbed his own father, but he had been clean for the past three months and was trying hard to stay that way. One relatively young man stood up and said he had a terminal disease and was in town to voluntarily receive an experimental drug. Frankly, I wasn’t sure if he was speaking of AIDS or just BS. When we’re confronted with people who attempt to con us on a regular basis, it’s easy to become a cynic. OJ is still looking for the murderer. Perhaps he’s on to something by looking in the prison where he currently lives. And then there’s Scott Peterson and the young woman who claimed a crazy black woman threw acid in her sun glassed face one night. But another older dignified man stood up that evening and stated that he had just stepped off a bus that afternoon. He had no money and no place to sleep. He hoped he could find a job in the area, as there were none where he had been living. Hopefully, he’ll make it with a little boost from others more fortunate.

It’s noted in the movie, The Soloist, that there are 90,000 homeless on the streets of Los Angeles alone. There are 3.4 million homeless in the United States including 1.4 million children. A reporter who befriends a mentally ill, musically gifted, homeless man, spends a night with him to better understand his world on the street. He observes that the LA skid row is like a human landfill of the discarded and abandoned. He struggles to sort out the boy genius and the lost traveler, "knowing that every night he tucks his instruments away and lays his head down among predators, hustlers and all of the fallen drunks as rats the size of a meatloaf emerge from drains to feed off the squalor". As the homeless Nathaniel settles into a makeshift bed of cardboard and plastic sheeting, he observes his surroundings and wistfully implores, “I believe these children of God are gonna be OK tonight. They’re gonna sleep and dream as humans do…I hope you sleep well, Mr. Lopez. I hope the whole world sleeps well.”

We have a simple “Hunger Pot” that is placed at the front of our church sanctuary to collect both food and money for the homeless after a service. It’s fittingly not a silver chalice or shiny brass collection plate, but a simple steel soup pot from the kitchen with burn marks around the bottom edges. These iconic images of the homeless will be with me when I give something to help those living on the street next Sunday. These people are human beings just like me, except their lives have gone terribly wrong for many reasons. As I write this post in the cold early morning hour, perhaps my contributions will help them sleep just a bit easier, while these images disturb my own sleep; as well they should these days. The world shouldn't sleep well until the whole world can sleep well.

CHICAGO CLOUD GATE





Cloud Gate I, Chicago, IL
Cloud Gate II, Chicago, IL
Cloud Gate III, Chicago, IL
Cloud Gate IV, Chicago, IL

CHICAGO NIGHT LIFE






Lake Michigan Rainbow, Chicago, IL
Chicago Rain Shower, Chicago, IL
Chicago Night Life, Chicago, IL
Trump Tower & Sears Tower, Chicago, IL
John Hancock Tower, Chicago, IL