Saturday, December 31, 2011

Visit to Ground Zero Memorial and Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Worst of History, the Best of History

Yesterday I visited New York City. Our first stop was the Ground Zero Memorial. I had not been to the site since the Towers were both standing. Although we all have been reflecting upon and absorbing the horrific event which happened over ten years ago, each in our own way according to our personal experiences, I did not know how I would react to the site.

What was most noticeable to me was the diversity of the names on the Memorial. There were victims of many nationalities, languages, creeds, and cultures. The sheer number of people lost is staggering.

Later in the day we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I love that the admission fee is only a recommended price. That policy indicates to me that this heritage belongs to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Anyone can see these beautiful works of art.

The sheer size of the museum makes it impossible to see everything. We focused on the recently opened Art of the Arab Lands, then the European Impressionists, then Asia including China, Tibet, Korea, Cambodia, and India.

The visit was an interesting contrast to the morning's experience. Now we were seeing the height of culture, some of the greatest achievements and most beautiful creations of humankind. Each culture has a unique expression of what is most beautiful, meaningful, powerful, and enduring.

Our diverse cultures, which once developed along seemingly different paths (although with much interaction), all share one world. If war does not cease, and violent conflict does not end, we will all suffer the consequences together. Hate is a fire which devours everything in its path.

As our race, the human race, has created all these beautiful works of art, can we now create a world culture, diverse in its expressions, but united in one family? It is my hope that we can.

We ate lunch at Candle 79, which is "the" vegan restaurant in Manhattan. I ate a black bean pumpkin seed burger with polenta fries.

Van Gogh
Ancient Near East

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas! Let us build a world of justice and peace

It has been an ongoing Christmas tradition of mine to reflect upon the latest Vatican message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace. This year Pope Benedict chose for his topic: Educating Young People in Justice and Peace.

The Holy Father acknowledges that these are dark times, there is a crisis in labour and the economy and "It seems as if a shadow has fallen over our time, preventing us from clearly seeing the light of day." He proposes that "the young, with their enthusiasm and idealism, can offer new hope to the world." He says that teaching young people is "a primary duty for society as a whole, for the sake of building a future of justice and peace."

Pope Benedict writes about education in truth and freedom: "The right use of freedom, then, is central to the promotion of justice and peace, which require respect for oneself and others, including those whose way of being and living differs greatly from one’s own. This attitude engenders the elements without which peace and justice remain merely words without content: mutual trust, the capacity to hold constructive dialogue, the possibility of forgiveness, which one constantly wishes to receive but finds hard to bestow, mutual charity, compassion towards the weakest, as well as readiness to make sacrifices."

He states that the value of a person is threatened by a tendency to view others by criteria of "utility, profit and material possessions". Furthermore, peace isn't just the absence of war by "maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries", but rather "Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity." The human family is one family, reconciled in love.

We must be active in our pursuit of peace, because peace "is not merely a gift to be received: it is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution. 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God", as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:9). '"

The Holy Father ends with this inspiring paragraph: "All you men and women throughout the world, who take to heart the cause of peace: peace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire. Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace. With these thoughts I offer my reflections and I appeal to everyone: let us pool our spiritual, moral and material resources for the great goal of 'educating young people in justice and peace'. "

Merry Christmas everyone! May we all work together to create a world of justice and peace for all!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Merrill Creek Reservoir and Snowy Owl

Today was a beautiful day for a hike around Merrill Creek Reservoir in New Jersey. Temperatures were in the fifties, with a slight breeze which was sometimes chilly, but overall very pleasant, especially for December.

Submerged trees in the reservoir

The water was calm and still.

The highlight of the day was seeing this Snowy Owl. He is the little white speck in front of the largest rock. I know that my point and shoot camera barely shows there is an owl there, but, believe me, he was impressive. I had several nice views of him from different perspectives. He did not change his location the whole time, but he was moving his head and looking around. I have never seen a Snowy Owl before, so this was a rare treat. There were several other birdwatchers there to see our feathered visitor from the Arctic. He has been hanging around since November 4th.

Another view of the calm reservoir

A rainbow!

Self portrait. That's my shadow in the bottom left.

A beautiful day. The colors were bright and clear. You can see the moon in the top right.

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