Thursday, June 4, 2020

This IS Who We Are

Angel of Change

On the morning news, historian and author Jon Meacham, commenting on the brutal and tragic  killing of George Floyd, observed we should stop saying “this is not who we are” and move the conversation closer to the truth by admitting,  “Yes, this IS who we are.” Now we need to decide, “Is this who we want to be?”

The first slave ship arrived on American soil in 1619.  

This country has always been controlled by white men, writing a segment of ugly history. Forcing slavery for free labor, nearly eradicating the indigenous Indians to steal the land they lived on and honored as belonging to no one, but the Land itself and consistently writing women out of history.  

Even benign white men follow blindly down this historical path of inequity.

A few years ago, I read Art & Physics, a fascinating, well researched book by acclaimed author, Leonard Shlain. The book was inspired by his twelve-year-old daughter whom he had taken to see an exhibit of modern art at the MOMA in New York City. When she asked him what the paintings meant, he didn’t have an answer. Being a curious fellow, he began researching our attraction to non-representational art and ended up writing a book about artists and how they have foreshadowed the discoveries of scientists, beginning with the Age of Enlightenment.

It wasn’t until I was almost finished with this 480-page book, that I realized he had not mentioned one woman: not one woman artist, not one woman scientist. As a dedicated researcher, that he only focused on men was almost breathtaking. And the irony, it was his daughter’s question that set him down the path. His book received many praised reviews, no one noticed that women were not even a part of the story.   

I was born in Wiesbaden, Germany 69 years ago. We immigrated to the United States when I was nine. I don’t remember being taught any in-depth American history about slavery. It was pretty much glossed over; it happened, the Civil War fixed it, now we are all equal. Only we are not.

Women did not get the right to vote nationally until 1920. And today, 100 years! later, we still have not elected a woman President or Vice-President.

The Civil Rights Amendment was passed in 1964 and yet, this establishment continues to be tightly held in the clenched fists of old white men. It is an untenable stranglehold.

I don’t have the answers, and I don’t like what I see. It puzzles me, it scares me, it shames me and it hurts my heart.

But I believe we are becoming more awakened. As reprehensible as our current President is, we should thank him, for he has unmasked the ugly side of America; out of the dark will come the light.

We should honor Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and all those who were killed before them, as they have become Angels of Change.

 I think Jon Meacham’s honest assessment and question are a lighthouse of hope and enlightenment; to paraphrase Mr. Meacham, this is who we are, now we need to decide, who do we want to become?

Friday, April 24, 2020

Adjectives; The Emotional Branch Of Our Vocabulary

If Purple Were A Dream
Analog collage on paper

For whatever reason, my muse likes to lure me awake between 2 am and 4 am to drop interesting thoughts into the midst of my sleep.

She cannot be willed back to silence; I have learned –
I snatch the pen and steno pad off the nightstand, 
quietly retreat to our bathroom, 
shut the door and in the dim light, take dictation.

Today began with a short poem and then she dangled this gem:
              Adjectives, the emotional branch of our vocabulary.

Before I go any further, this disclaimer; I am not a linguistic marvel nor a professor of the English language. So, please, those of you who read this and are - hold your wagging Shakespearean tongues, your erudite comments, your red pencil corrections and simply enjoy this alphabet locomotion of a ride.

As an example of the critical revue adjectives play on the stage of writing, imagine reading this poem without the modifier, softly.
Three Forty-One
              Waking momentarily
              I sink into the quiet -
              an oasis of stillness.
              I drift back into sleep.

This six-letter word among words carries the poem into an imaginary place of down feathers, marshmallows, chubby baby cheeks, delicate fluff, gentle gazes, a whisper of a kiss. One word paints a kaleidoscope of romantic images.

You gotta admit, our language would be pretty dull without them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Currency Of Compassion

The Unfolding
23 x 37
acrylic on canvas

I have found these days and hours of quiet time, a time for introspection, reflection and lots of cooking. Scouring cookbooks to plan clever ways to use up supplies in the pantry since going to the grocery store feels more and more like entering a hazmat zone. Gloves, masks, physical distancing, all important and yet so foreign.

I'm even baking. This latest inspiration was one of necessity. We had some bananas that were over ripe; pre-pandemic time, I would have thrown them out. Now I feel it's almost sacrilegious to waste any food, especially when I hear of so many being food insecure and going to bed hungry.

In this country, success and trade hinges on currency, the kind printed by the Treasury. Yet, we have within ourselves a much more potent currency, a currency that resides in our hearts: 
  • the currency of compassion
  • of kindness
  • of hope
  • of gratitude
  • of fellowship
  • of stewardship
  • of love
We can learn, enrich each other and ourselves by spending our universal currency. We can use to live bigger, better lives and help others live with hope, promise and dignity. 

We see examples being played out on the television. People inspiring and cheering each other on. People coming together in spirit; singing, clapping, cheering from their windows for the heroes that enter places not for the feint of heart. 

This pandemic is forcing us to see and become more aware of the inequalities that plague our country. We have the opportunity to make big, radical changes. 

Imagine, an unseen, non-living, microbe has stopped the engines of commerce around the globe. 
The Earth is healing herself. Skies are clearing. The air is ridding itself of polluted particles and the peaks of Mount Everest are being seen 125 miles away in India. These are miracles even five months ago we could not imagine. Doesn't that tell us something?

There is a voice that does not speak. Listen.
Rainer Marie Rilke