Chronicles in Ordinary Time 79: Change the World

EstherThe Story of Esther, acrylic
permanent collection: Museum of Biblical Art, Dallas, Texas

Tonight [my tonight] there are fanatics in Syria, destroying thousands of years of art and architectural history, in the name of religion. This has happened before, in Western history; we call it iconoclasm. Part of the reason there is so little visual art in Protestant churches is a result of the iconoclasm that took place in the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation. The historical link, in the Abrahamic faiths, is a literal interpretation of the Creator’s command that man shall not make ‘graven images’—the creation of idols that are worshipped in place of the Creator. Israel’s “Golden Calf” being a prime example. People still make idols that sit on dashboards of cars and are enshrined in homes. In the American culture of today, many of our idols are concepts—we even name television shows after them…We make idols all the time. The Creator knew this from the beginning of Eternity. The Creator also gave us free will—the ability to choose how we live our lives. And the Creator gives us the power to get past our idols.

I am a man of faith, and I am an artist. I am grateful to The Sisters of the Holy Names at Marylhurst, and other Catholic friends who helped me to resolve the differences between art that represents faith, and art that creates idols. More of my art is digital these days—my hands and eyes don’t work as well as they did in earlier times. Part of me ponders the idea as to whether or not digital images—patterns of light upon a screen—can even be considered ‘graven images’—the images don’t even really exist until they are printed on some type of medium. At that point, they really aren’t the created image, they are a copy of the image, subject to idiocies of printing equipment.

When my brain hurts because of the actions of extremist fanatics, I find myself retreating to science fiction movies—particularly of the genre inspired by Gene Roddenberry and the creators of the Stargate saga. Roddenberry believed in a future where the ideology that separates people can be overcome; that people of different races, religions, ideologies could live together in harmony rather than always being in endless war. These stories present the idea that we can become better people. Always working at becoming better people. Semper opus fieri meliores for those who believe that a phrase is always more cool in Latin…

This way of thinking seems hard to find, in today’s world. Here, the world runs at the whim of the rich and powerful—today’s American idols. People in masses tend toward violence and hatred; and fear of the unknown.

Individuals, and groups of individuals can actually create positive change. I’ve seen it happen, I see it happening every day, in small ways; small steps that can become giant leaps. Will the 98% overthrow the 2% and the fractions of the 1%? Hard to imagine, given that we keep electing millionaires and aspiring millionaires to the seats of power in government… This is the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and its destruction of the Gulf Coast. Ten years on, there is still a lot of damage to be undone. The promises of government have not been kept. The actions of individuals working together have demonstrated what faith, hope and love can accomplish.

There are ideas and ideals that money and power cannot buy. Most lottery winners end up broke in a few years. From what I understand, most millionaires end up with broken families. I am neither rich nor famous—I have aspired to both in my time—but I am richly blessed in that I have a family that aspires to be better than they are at any given time. It takes a lot of work and commitment. Compared to much of the world, I am rich. My net worth is a positive number.

How do we change the world? One act of random kindness at a time.

A few years ago, without permission, I edited the movie “Evan Almighty” into a-few-minutes-long synopsis video. The file [link below the image] is fairly large so it will take a few minutes to download…

One Act of Random Kindness… can change the world for the better.



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