Tag Archives: paris

Works of Art

23333990_10154824095986784_819298701828859346_oOf all the things I have been called in life, art aficionado is nowhere on the list. Now if art is defined broadly to include beautiful things like a perfectly executed squeeze play, well that’s a different story, but the traditional definitions leave me out in the artless cold. I am not a hater. I am simply an art doofus.

Our recent two-week vacation in Madrid that included a weekend jaunt to Paris provided more opportunities for art appreciation than in the combined 47+ years of my life that preceded the trip. We visited the colossal Louvre as well as the Orsay in Paris. We toured three amazing art museums in Madrid, including the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen. We witnessed the jaw-dropping art and architecture involved in the cavernous 2800-rooms of the Royal Palace in the Spanish capital city and multiple cathedrals in Toledo, Madrid, and Paris. We marveled at wonders such as Plaza Mayor and the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe and Sainte-Chapelle.

I am so full of artistic appreciation right now that I should not operate heavy machinery. But of all the things I witnessed during this unforgettable vacation, there is one moment that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

We were somewhere in the Louvre. Who knows where we were really—without the art involved in creating the exit signage I might still be wandering lost in the Louvre. But we were somewhere in the Louvre when I noticed that we were in a room with a gentleman and his daughter with Down’s Syndrome. They were wandering at about our pace through the maze of paintings.

I am so thankful that I happened to look back as I exited one room for another and noticed that the father was down on one knee to take a picture of his daughter in front of a massive and colorful painting created by someone whose name I am sure that I cannot pronounce. I did not know then nor do I now which uber-expensive painting the man’s daughter was standing in front of, but for the rest of my days I will remember precisely my view of the massive posed smile the daughter had on her face but more importantly the exuberant joy on the father’s face as he saw his beautiful girl through the camera lens in all of her glory. It was obvious that in that camera lens was the most enchanting and priceless picture that he had ever seen.

And that, my friends, was the most beautiful thing I witnessed in all of Europe.

As the father of two amazing daughters of my own, I have long appreciated that kind of art.

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Love Your Neighbor

If the world had a Facebook account, its relationship status would read, “It’s Complicated.” Unfortunately, my contribution to the dizzying conversation will not magically clear things up.

Mourning is the appropriate response to tragedy, but the proud defiance by ISIS in the most recent attacks in Paris does not allow the world to sit beyond a moment of silence before responding to the ongoing threat. I was traveling when the attacks occurred, and best I could tell, the talking heads apparently agree that the real ISIS threat is its ability to recruit homegrown terrorists everywhere. They emphasized everywhere.

Who is attracted to such a thing? It is far too convenient to ascribe the attraction to abstract “evil.” Evil is easy to condemn and easy to hate, but this is no DC comic book. Further, even calling the tragedies “senseless” is far too easy. The acts, unfortunately, make all too much sense to those who carry them out, and any hope of prevention requires us to seek first to understand. I propose that those attracted to ISIS across the world are people who feel deeply marginalized, outside, silenced, and unimportant in their respective communities, and that any hope of removing the threat at the critical grassroots level requires us to love and respect everyone.

I’m a pretty hopeful guy in general, but this one has me less than chipper.

It is a catch-22 at the top. The powers that be must condemn and respond to terrorist attacks and have a specific responsibility to stop those already plotting violence. That response, however, inevitably fuels those who already feel marginalized by those very powers. ISIS thrives on the strong response its actions generate. We should remember that the next time we celebrate a necessary response.

So, surprisingly, the real, long-term hope for the world is in the hands of its regular citizens. If you want to make the world a safe place beyond a temporary Facebook profile picture, the answer lies not in forming camps by religion, race, sexual orientation, age, or God forbid, political party. In fact, I suggest the exact opposite—that the answer lies in breaking down the social walls that divide us in Everyday World and caring for those who live on the other side.

Division fuels hatred. Reconciliation generates hope. My advice is to seek out the outsiders in your community, including those who may already be angry, bitter souls. Befriend them. Walk beside them. Listen. Care about their cares. That, my friends, is where you and I can make a real difference in this complicated world.