Saturday, December 09, 2017

Christmas Letter 2017

For three months this year, our neighborhood park hosted an installation that delighted and challenged everyone who saw it. We were one of five parks selected for the city’s Monuments Lab, a project that explored the nature and meaning of monuments in today’s world.

The artist’s concept was straightforward. She covered an existing monument with reflective material. Visitors to the park could then look at the installation and see, not the past, but the present and future, for themselves and the neighborhood.

The installation was simple. Its meaning was complex and many-layered. At times it seemed to melt into the surrounding trees, and visitors wondered where it had gone. One visitor called it a portal to another dimension. Others took photos of themselves and their reflections. Everyone who saw it found a different meaning—often more than one.

As summer came to an end and autumn approached, the light and the surrounding trees changed. The installation seemed to change as well.

When our monument’s time ended, some wondered whether it would be moved or have a permanent place in another part of the park. It had become a part of our lives, if only for a short time—a thing of beauty and wonder for all to see, enjoy, and contemplate. Now it is gone, but the monument it covered stays with us, perhaps with added meaning,

Monuments can remind us of good works and great people—but some honor men who betrayed their country to preserve a slave system that destroyed human lives and corrupted everything it touched. Remembering that part of our past is essential if we are to overcome it, but honoring it makes the task of rebuilding more difficult.

Our monument brought people together, delighted the eye, and challenged the mind. It honored the present and the future in ways that we had not seen before. It affirmed the power of art to change us for the better.

May you find beauty and hope wherever it awaits you—in the power of art, in kindness from others, and in the love that you give to those around you. May you find your own monuments and may they help you to build a better future, for everyone.