Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Black Lives Still Matter

March 20, 2016

Black Lives Still Matter

Sorrow Songs

“[These songs] are the music of an unhappy people,
of the children of disappointment;
they tell of death and suffering
and unvoiced longing toward a truer world,
of misty wanderings and hidden ways.
Our song, our toil, our cheer, and warning have been given
to this nation in blood-brotherhood.
Are not these gifts worth the giving? Is not this work and striving? Would America have been America without her Negro people?”

These are the words of WEB DuBois, writing in 1903, yet they could apply today to the music that is coming out of the Black Lives Matter movement, such as Janelle Monnae’s "Hell You Talmbout" and "Cry No More" from Rhiannon Giddens. 

Black lives matter.

DuBois wrote The Souls of Black Folk 40 years after the Emancipation Proclamation; in the book he wrote about the sacred music of spirituals, which he called “Sorrow Songs”:

“They that walked in darkness sang songs in the olden days – Sorrow Songs – for they were weary at heart…
by fateful chance, the Negro folk-song – the rhythmic cry
of the slaves – stands today not simply as the sole American music,
but as the most beautiful expression of human experience
born this side of seas…the singular spiritual heritage
of the nation and the greatest gift of the Negro people.” (Crouch and Benjamin,121)

DuBois was a young academic who spent years studying in Germany, influenced by German philosophers and sociologists, before coming back to the US. His early work was a series of monographs on the status and condition of African-Americans in cities, the first generation of freedmen in Philadelphia in particular.   

His scientific studies of African-American life did not have the positive effect on public opinion and social policy he had expected, as the promise of the Reconstruction faded during this period of American history.

So his book The Souls of Black Folk – a misleading title because he was a secular humanist – went much further than statistics and surveys, to investigate what he called “the problem of the Twentieth Century - the problem of the color-line.” Here we are in the 21st century and the ‘color-line’ still is a problem. 

Black lives still matter.

DuBois set out “to show to the reader ‘the strange meaning of being black in the dawning of the Twentieth Century,’ by explaining the meaning of the emancipation, and its effect, and his views on the role of the leaders of his race.”( He observed that white Americans professed the creed ‘all men are created equal’ but showed hypocrisy on race matters; he argued that few white Americans have ever believed in the universal humanism voiced in the Declaration of Independence (Crouch and Benjamin, 53).

Prophetic rise of Teutonic Hero

Years earlier, his 1890 Baccalaureate speech at Harvard was entitled “Jefferson Davis as a Representation of Civilization.” His thesis: that Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, was a typical Teutonic hero; (DuBois said that) the history of civilization during the last millennium had been based upon the development of the idea of the Strong Man, of which Davis was the embodiment. The Anglo-Saxon loves a soldier, he said – and Jefferson Davis was a soldier. (Crouch and Benjamin, 55)

DuBois predicted then that the desire for a Strong Man, whose attraction rested on the combination of “Individualism [and] the rule of might,” would give rise to “a system of human culture whose principle is the rise of one race on the ruins of another.” This is the type of civilization which Jefferson Davis represented…a field for stalwart manhood and heroic character, and at the same time for moral obtuseness and refined brutality.” (Crouch and Benjamin, 56)

In 1890 this was extremely prophetic for the rise of Nazism a few decades later, but unfortunately it is still prophetic today with the rise of the modern-day Teutonic hero, Donald Trump. Black lives still matter.

On the 100th anniversary of the publication of The Souls of Black Folk, Stanley Crouch and Playthell Benjamin revisited DuBois’ legacy in their book Reconsidering the Souls of Black Folk (2002). Benjamin claims that the “persistent source of conflict since 1903 has been the attempt by African-Americans to live out the universal human values and vision articulated in the traditions of Shakespeare, the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, …[they have] simply [engaged in] a quest to become more fully human. (And the conflict comes) because it [has] placed them in opposition to the American racial caste system of white over black. (213)

Black Lives Matter – a response to All Lives Matter

Which brings me to Black Lives Matter, a provocative title for a movement that is naming this conflict, this deadly racial caste conflict , which has manifested itself, in part, in the deaths of those names shouted out in Hell You Talmbout.

Walter Scott. Jermaine Reid. Philip White. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Sean Bell. Freddie Gray. Aiyana Jones. Sandra Bland. Kimani Gray. John Crawford. Michael Brown. Miriam Carey. Sharonda Singleton. Emmett Till. Tommy Yancy. Jordan Baker. Amadou Diallo.

Most of these people so remembered died at the hands of the American public servants we know as the police.

“If you try to tell the people in most Negro communities that the police are their friends, they just laugh at you. Obviously, something desperately needs to be done to correct this. I have been particularly impressed by the fact that even in the state of Mississippi, where the FBI did a significant training job with the Mississippi police, the police are much more courteous to Negroes than they are in Chicago or New York. Our police forces simply must develop an attitude of courtesy and respect for the ordinary citizen.

If we can just stop policemen from using profanity in their encounters with black people, we will have accomplished a lot. In the larger sense, police must cease being occupation troops in the ghetto and start protecting its residents. Yet very few cities have really faced up to this problem and tried to do something about it. It is the most abrasive element in Negro-white relations, but it is the last to be scientifically and objectively appraised.”

This is a quote from the essay A Testament of Hope by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and it is, again, as true today as it was when he wrote it in 1969. 

Black lives still matter.

How Allies Help

At last year’s Living Legacy conference on the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches Opal Tometi, one of the founding members of Black Lives Matter, spoke there. There has been a growing interest in our faith tradition in joining with this organization, and our General Assembly in June will focus on interfaith and black lives matter themes. 

But there is significant pushback for UU congregations that take up the Black Lives Matter cause. Black Lives Matter signs at four Annapolis, Maryland-area churches, including the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, continue to be stolen or damaged, frustrating those congregations and local police alike.  (Capital Gazette – 3.5.16)

And in the media there is much criticism of Black Lives Matter; in late August 2015, Fox and Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asks “Why has the Black Lives Matter movement not been classified yet as a hate group?” (Loss)

One of the most common responses to the statement ‘Black Lives Matter’ is ‘All Lives Matter’; here's a series of tweets posted by Austin Channing on “Why ‘All Lives Matter’ is not a Christian Response to ‘Black Lives Matter’:

The more popular #blacklivesmatter became, the more white people in particular started to negate that statement.
Furthermore, the "Christian" version has sought to "shut down" statements that #blacklivesmatter by appearing more spiritual.
The implication is that no good Christian would say anything other than all lives matter.
But this implication ignores the reasons #blacklivesmatter was created in the first place.
#blacklivesmatter was created to make clear racial disparities black bodies face in [the] USA, particularly around police brutality.
#blacklivesmatter was not created to proclaim that God only cares about black lives. #blacklivesmatter is purposeful in bringing to the forefront the ways black lives haven’t mattered in [the] USA.
So, when the response is ‘all lives matter’, the specific purpose of proclaiming #blacklivesmatter is erased.
Christians who believe all lives matter equally to God are sickened by the specific ways black lives are treated violently & there is no hesitation to join in the proclamation that #blacklivesmatter
White Christian responses to anti-black violence tend to be (if not outright dismissive) that we need make everyone Christian.
#weexpectmore from those who believe Jesus: "He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released... that oppressed will be set free"
#WeExpectMore because Xns talk so eagerly of a culture of life, yet we have tolerated—even cultivated—a culture of death.

Kevin Roose’s blog on Fusion website says in part:

“Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!
 The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.
 That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.
 The problem is that, in practice, the world doesn’t work that way…there is a news bias toward stories that the majority of the audience (who are white) can identify with. So when a young black man gets killed…it’s generally not considered “news”, while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate — young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don’t treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.
 Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter.
But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.”

Now, race accounts for only .012 % difference in our genetic material – Paul Hoffman (Crouch & Benjamin, 91) says that ‘modern science has liberated us from the idea of race’. So there is much more involved in the prejudice that manifests itself in oppression of a person of a different color…and I differ with people who say the problem is simple racism, as well as with those who say the problem is so complex that we are helpless to solve it.

But I assert that as Unitarian Universalists, as people who proclaim a free liberal religion, we have a vital role to play as prophets and as allies in challenging racism and oppression.
As allies, we need to understand that our … social justice work is religious work, as UU theologian Paul Rasor says ( in Reclaiming Prophetic Witness, 97).  That means that we don’t have a choice in saying Black Lives Matter, it is a religious statement.

We need to be clear about who we are, and the issue of religious identity has never been easy for liberals. Rasor writes: “Our commitment to religious freedom, our openness to new ideas, our insistence that religion should live in the present and not in the past, our healthy theological pluralism – these very things that make us liberal mean that it’s difficult to pin down our collective religious identity. While many Americans find comfort in dogmatic or fundamentalist faith, this option is off the table for religious liberals.”

But Rasor argues that we liberals do share a set of religious values and principles, and the core theological insight he points to is what he calls human liberation – liberation rooted in a commitment to radical human equality (102).

Our Universalist theology is “radically inclusive – we’re all in this together, and wherever we are headed, we will all share in it.” This is a prophetic and transformative theology. We can bring a message of healing in a hurting world and we celebrate diversity instead of fearing it.
Mark Morrison-Reed says that the dynamic that we can bring to bear as allies is three-fold: spirituality provides the motivation, intellectualism provides the tools, and politics is the method. (Black Pioneers in a White Denomination, 174) And we have UUs from the past to help us see how to do that.

Don’t forget that in 1965 a quarter of the total active UU ministry went to Selma or Montgomery – being there “taught them how to step out of individualism and think about community first…swept up by a power and a cause greater than themselves” (MM Reed, The Selma Awakening, 215). And more than 50 years on, black lives still matter.

We must support Black Lives Matter because it is a cause greater than ourselves, and we owe it to those UUs who many years ago gave their energy, their passion, and – in the cases of Viola Liuzzo and Rev. James Reeb, their lives – to take up the cause of justice alongside those who suffered oppression.

The writer Omid Safi says, "When we allow hatred and venom towards one of us — be it Muslims, Jews, Hispanic, gays/lesbians, poor people, undocumented people, African-Americans, combination of the above, or others — we all go down together. As Martin Luther King used to tell us, either we go up together or we go down together. But either way, we are together."

Each name we heard said in ‘Hell You Talmbout’ has a story behind it – a tragic, heart-breaking story.  Mark Morrison-Reed writes, “Story puts us into someone else’s world. It holds up their struggles and thereby heightens our awareness of our assumptions, the assumptions of the middle class, of the white…In this process…one can see beyond our differences to the true depth of one’s relationship to others.” (Black Pioneers in a White Denomination, 181)

Relationship – interconnection – interdependence: this is why for us, Black Lives Still Matter. We forget our connection human to human at our peril.

WEB DuBois concluded his book with these words: “And herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor – all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked; - who is good? Not that men are ignorant – what Is Truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men.”  (DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk. In Crouch & Benjamin, 256)

Two days ago I visited Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, where last June “nine parishioners including Clementa Pinckney, a pastor and state senator, were gunned down by Dylann Roof in an attempt to start a race war” (Loss). It is the place where Rhiannon Giddens performed the song “Cry No More” you are about to see and hear. Its story ranges from slavery to the “the bedrock of this nation… laid with these brown hands” to the “acts of terror” committed today.

As the writer Robert Loss says, “Silencing the truth is easy. Speaking it is hard. You have to make people listen. The drums have to be loud. The names have to be shouted.”

Black Lives Still Matter.
Blessed be.


Janelle Monnae, "Hell You Talmbout"  

Rhiannon Giddens, "Cry No More" 

Reconsidering the Souls of Black Folk (S Crouch and P Benjamin) “for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line”—a prescient statement. Setting out to show to the reader “the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century,” Du Bois explains the meaning of the emancipation, and its effect, and his views on the role of the leaders of his race.

Black Pioneers in a White Denomination (M Morrison-Reed)

The Selma Awakening (M Morrison-Reed)

Reclaiming Prophetic Witness (Paul Rasor )

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Art & Spirituality: “The Promise of Inner Wholeness”

So far this month we have had a variety of art and artists leading us into deeper reflection on spirituality. But today I’d like to delve more deeply into the way in which art can be therapeutic for both the artist and the spectator.
I was moved to consider this angle by a quote from Thomas Kelly, who has been called a Quaker mystic. But his was no comfortable contemplative life; he sought academic respectability in the early 1930s but had a crushing failure when he suffered an anxiety attack while defending his PhD dissertation at Harvard. He was denied another chance and sank to a low, almost suicidal level before having a spiritual experience. His reflections on the mindset of trying to ‘have it all’ still apply to us in the 21st century:
Kelly compares the voices within that pull us in multiple directions to a variety of selves that simultaneously reside within us. As Kelly describes it, "There is the civic self, the parental self, the financial self, the religious self, the society self, the professional self, the literary self." (Strained, Breathless, and Hurried: Learning from the Life of Thomas R. Kelly. Chad Thralls May 1, 2011 )

And what is worse, is that these different voices never cooperate and so we are pushed to exhaustion by trying to reconcile the various demands of our voices:

We are not integrated. We are distraught. We feel honestly the pull of many obligations and try to fulfill them all. And we are unhappy, uneasy, strained, oppressed and fearful we shall be shallow. For over the margins of life comes a whisper, a faint call, a premonition of richer living which we know we are passing by. Strained by the mad pace of our daily outer burdens, we are further strained by an inward uneasiness, because we have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power. If only we could slip over into that Center!” (Thomas Kelly, Source: A Testament of Devotion)
Creating joy in our lives – as in the meditation words we heard a few minutes ago – can help us to find a richer, deeper life. And many artists do just that, they listen to that whisper, that faint call…and for many of them, this is a leap of faith. As Grace Paley observed about the art of writing, “You write from what you know, but you write into what you don’t know.”

And I suppose that goes along with the quote from the artist Terry Lee Getz: “I will risk plumbing unknown depths that release and fulfill my spirit, and I’ve arrived at a point in my life, creative or otherwise, where the ‘unknown’ is my preferred orientation.” (“Embracing the Unknown” in Siminaitis, Kaleidoscope, 2007, 126)

One definition of spirituality is “when we open ourselves up to the goodness of the universe and respond to it with awe and wonder and love.”

And Veronica Brady also uses that term ‘open’ when she says that  Genuine spirituality, like art, is open and dynamic...both are the hope of a world so badly in need of transformation” (

I’ve quoted artists about how they make themselves vulnerable and open, but of course there are two sides to any piece of art, the one who creates it and the one who beholds it. It can be transformative for both artist and spectator.

Oscar Wilde affirms the place of openness for both when he says, 
“The temperament to which Art appeals … is the temperament of receptivity. That is all. If [one] approaches a work of art with any desire to exercise authority over it and the artist, [they] approach it in such a spirit that [they] cannot receive any artistic impression from it at all. And the more completely [they] can suppress [their] own silly views, [their] own foolish prejudices, [their] own absurd ideas of what Art should be, or should not be, the more likely [they are] to understand and appreciate the work of art in question.” (

I was searching for a few examples of artists through whose work we could explore receptivity today, and I have found three very different ones who come from our own faith tradition. In many ways, perhaps incidentally or deliberately, our fourth principle – a free and responsible search for truth and meaning – and our seventh principle – our part in the interdependent web of all existence – play significant roles in their creative genius.

Nathaniel Currier
First, the very successful work in the 1830s of a lithographer whose name is usually linked with another – Unitarian Nathaniel Currier, who along with James Merritt Ives produced the kinds of pictures that come to mind in the song “Sleigh Bells”, where the lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you is like a picture print of Currier and Ives.

But what made Currier so popular across the nation was not bucolic winter scenes, but disaster pictures! His prints depicting dramatic and newsworthy incidents resonated with American’s growing middle class of the 1830s and both fed and reflected the anxieties and sensibilities of that time…as scholar Genoa Shepley says, “in a way that attended to the expectations, hopes, and fears of a newly minted audience of consumers of visual culture.”

(By Which Melancholy Occurrence: The Disaster Prints of Nathaniel Currier, 1835–1840

Shepley observes that 
Nathaniel Currier lived in tumultuous times. His own life trajectory…arced across one of the most economically, socially, and politically volatile periods in American history—one marked by financial downturns, military conflicts, and massive physical and class dislocations as the tottering republic found its balance and matured into a modern industrial society. Currier’s seventy-five years on this earth also witnessed the advent of technological marvels—steam-powered ships and railroads—that remodeled the topography of the country and radically altered the flow of people within it. Such transformations brought with them the possibility of catastrophic conflict and sudden, grisly death on a grand scale.”
And so one of his first pictures which drew the American people’s attention to life in an urban environment – as people flocked to fast-growing cities – is “Ruins of the Merchant’s Exchange N.Y. after the Destructive Conflagration of Decbr. 16 & 17, 1835." This lithograph was issued initially in black and white and later in a hand-colored version—and appeared within days of the fire, selling thousands of copies”. Shepley says that one message to which the spectator of this image might be receptive is one of self-discipline, in the depiction of sober, proper behavior by onlookers and workers in the face of crisis.  Many young people in particular, who were noew to city life, would see this picture and understand and internalize the norms of reaction to such disasters.
“Five years later Nathaniel Currier’s lithographic print Awful Conflagration of the Steam Boat Lexington in Long Island Sound on Monday Eveg, Jany 13th 1840, by which Melancholy Occurrence, over 100 Persons Perished," "appeared in record time after the disaster and was delivered through the uncommon distribution mode of a news extra.” Its appeal to the spectator is one we all can identify with, the desire to see a sensational event safely from a distance. It puts the spectator farther away from the ship and closer to the desperate passengers who are in the water.

Shepley explains that attraction to sensationalism of spectators at the time was "due to Victorian attitudes toward death and dying. Americans were preoccupied with their bodies and their souls in this period, as shown by many songs, poems, sermons, and novels about death and how to deal with it" that flooded the consumer market.

Maybe rising mortality rates help to explain this preoccupation; but "an awareness of the consequences of pandemics, natural disasters, and large-scale accidents resulting from new transportation technologies may have dominated the public mind: the density of city life made large-scale death from a common source, like fires, trainwrecks, or ship sinkings, more possible.”

And so Currier’s picture of the wreck of the Lexington , and that of an earlier shipwreck, "The Dreadful Wreck of the Mexico on Hempstead Beach. Jany. 2nd 1837," may have served as an image for "remembering not only the life and death of its victims, but the life and death of the viewer." The nation was changing at such a rapid rate that the insecurities Americans faced were stoked by these images.

However, Shepley says that “These same Americans evinced a stubborn faith in progress and oft-professed determination to overcome adversity”, and the images from his lithographs gave voice to their “fears, ideals, and even secret pleasures.” This statement made me think about those voices that Thomas Kelly described as competing for our attention…the receptivity of those Americans who viewed those disaster scenes with curiosity, fear, horror, who were living in times they’d never imagined, where change came fast and furious – kind of like ours in the 21st century. And this example made me wonder about what we now use art for and I think we have the same need as those people moving into cities and trying to comprehend this new landscape; when we use – and create - social media images, the new art on Instagram and the photos we post, where we color in or insert our faces into another background, or post yet another video of cats – are we not in some way trying to make sense of our lives? Somewhat in awe of how amazing life is and trying to keep up and learn to adapt.  Not so different from Currier’s devoted spectators.
N.C. Wyeth
And now on to the patriarch of an amazing family of artists, the Wyeths. N.C. Wyeth described himself as ‘unconventional, democratic, free and careless of formalities, contemptuous of restraint, and with a wayward enthusiasm.’ His many illustrations and beautifully detailed oil paintings made him one of the best-known artists of the 20th century. The family were members of the First Unitarian Society of Wilmington Delaware. (Thoreau and Wyeth: Born Under the Same Sign

His son Andrew Wyeth was born exactly 100 years to the day after the birth of Henry David Thoreau, who N.C. Wyeth considered his hero. It’s said that his wife Carolyn caused him to reassess Thoreau, who he initially described as just another ‘amateur naturalist’.

"His long-held wish to publish an anthology of Thoreau’s writings finally came true in 1936 as the illustrated Men of Concord and Some Others, as Portrayed in the Journal of Henry David Thoreau, edited by Francis H. Allen."

In the picture above, Thoreau is the youngster in the bowler and Emerson the middle-aged man in the top hat. The preface of the book says: “Wyeth was a lifelong admirer of Thoreau, whose spirit has become a part of him. His work for this book, therefore, is a tribute from an intellectual disciple to an author who has had an important formative influence on his character and work.”

“NC taught Andrew to love Thoreau’s writings, and his own work displays his love of nature." You can hear this particularly in his written description of what he saw looking out of a window: “My imagination is suddenly whipped into an almost exalted appreciation of the magnificence of the little isolated and unrelated scene before me, and I am astounded at its vast beauty and its sublime importance, and am made to realize, in one poignant spasm, that before my eyes exists the profoundest beauty, the greatest glamour and magnificence possible for human sight and spiritual pleasure. “
(Thoreau and Wyeth: Born Under the Same Sign

Wyeth's admiration for Thoreau is most visible in this painting from 1933, "Walden Pond revisited," so unlike his other lifelike illustrations. Its details include Thoreau’s beanfield, the pond, the railroad, the Unitarian Church steeple, and the town of Concord.

Anyone who grew up looking at wonderful illustrations from The Deerslayer, Kidnapped or Robinson Crusoe will no doubt remember the awe those pictures inspired, and how they helped to imprint the images of those stories in our memories.
Dr. Seuss
And finally we come to another illustrator of children’s books who is much beloved in the memories of adults, and who, like Wyeth, cares about the natural world and also what we humans do to it: Theodore Geisel (DR Seuss).

This congregation has benefitted from the sermons of Dr Greg Brock about Dr Seuss, and the messages of his art and stories which resonate with the Unitarian Universalist imagination and reflect its values. His art is concerned with human behavior but through the weirdest non-human characters!

The Sneetches, which we saw earlier, tells us that “race and ethnicity need not be dividing lines in our society, and that we can coexist peacefully, regardless of our external differences.” (www. It was published in 1961 and its message is still as needed as ever.

One of the favorite stories is The Lorax, which Dr Seuss called a cautionary tale, about the interconnectedness of the things that live in an ecosystem. We can pretty much sum up its moral in this warning from the Lorax himself: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."         

Geisel never claimed to know what inspired him in the creation of his stories and characters – just like the quote earlier, he plumbed the unknown depths of his imagination – but he did base 2 of his characters on himself: the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch. And it is his explanation of the origin of How the Grinch Stole Christmas that I’d like to share with you.

In December 1957, just after How the Grinch Stole Christmas! appeared, Seuss explained the origins of the story to Redbook magazine:

“I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noted a very Grinchish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! Something had gone wrong with Christmas, I realized, or more likely with me. So I wrote the story about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”
This article was accompanied by the self-portrait you see here, of “Geisel looking into his bathroom mirror and the Grinch looking back. Seuss told many variations on this story, but he always mentions his identification with the Grinch, once describing him as a “nasty anti-Christmas character that was really myself.”
Dr Seuss once wrote, “Children’s reading and children’s thinking are the rock-bottom base upon which this country will rise. Or not rise. In these days of tension and confusion, writers are beginning to realize that books for children have a greater potential for good or evil than any other form of literature on earth.” (

The writer and broadcaster John Berger: “every image embodies a way of seeing…the more imaginative the work, the more profoundly it allows us to share the artist’s experience of the visible.” (Ways of Seeing, 1972, 10)
We can see in these examples today how the mysteries of the human condition, both good and bad, inspire artists in their work, and give us greater insight into what it means to be human and what we can learn from being human.

In doing this as Erna Cooper says, "Art is an equalizer of the high and low in society, a medium through which all of us may share the same subjective sphere, linking what was formerly the ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ and erasing the boundaries between us."        

The philosopher Alain de Boton writes: 
“Art can teach us to be more just towards ourselves as we endeavor to make the best of our circumstances: a job we do not always love, the imperfections of middle age, our frustrated ambitions and our attempts to stay loyal to irritable but loved spouses. Art can do the opposite of glamorizing the unattainable; it can reawaken us to the genuine merit of life as we’re forced to lead it. In art…base and unimpressive experiences are converted into something noble and fine. We hunger for artworks that will compensate for our inner fragilities and help return us to a viable mean... “

A final quote from Veronica Brady: "Art reminds us that life is stranger, more beautiful, demanding, joyous and painful than common sense knows."  

In a world that so badly needs transformation, needs the freedom to search for truth and meaning, needs to embrace the interconnectedness of all existence,  I believe that “Art holds out the promise of inner wholeness.”

 Gaye W. Ortiz