Positivity. That's been my name for Michael ever
since the first time I saw him. Over time, I realized that
this guy is out there day after day, even in foul weather,
giving every passerby a dose of good spirits.
A couple of years ago, Mike was working his Pepsi route early
one morning when he noticed how glum so many people looked
as they trudged in to work. He decided to give something back
by standing on the corner with these signs of hope.
He's not there every day, but several days a week he stands
at the corner of Broad and Beaver Streets (down the road from
the stock market), holds his sign, and talks with whoever
will talk to him.
His signs always rhyme. He says sometimes he wracks his brain
the night before, trying to come up with something uplifting.
He knows he has an audience, and he tries hard not to disappoint.
I'm glad he's got the time. Who knows what kind of difference
he makes, but I'll bet a bucket that he does.
MLK Day 2001. The first national holiday of the new
year. It's too new a holiday to be loaded down with the baggage
of the other national holidays: no heavy rituals or commercial
tie-ins. This isn't a generic holiday like Presidents' Day
or even Veterans' Day, either. It's connected profoundly to
the rememberance of probably the closest icon our country
has to Ghandi.
I started out the day noticing that you can't separate the
memory of Martin from the way he died. Today we celebrated
his birth, and the beginning of a life of contribution, yet
many who spoke about him in public today probably began by
talking about where they were when they heard he had died.
I also noticed how so much of what he contributed was about
potential. We still reflect about how close we are to the
fulfillment of his dream. The ground we covered while he was
alive may not be nearly as important as the tone he set, or
the direction he pointed.
I think there's at least one state that still doesn't officially
observe today as a holiday. That's too bad. I also suspect
that there are more than a few strongholds in this country
that outright resent the fact that a black man fighting for
civil rights could be remembered in this way. We really haven't
come that far from the lynchings, the dogs, and the fire hoses.
We sometimes forget that our diverse country has its extremists,
its separatists, its terrorists. In a way, the terrorists
who assassinated JFK, Martin, Bobby, and Malcom succeeded.
We are a country that is more careful about what we say, and
to whom. Maybe we're finally getting over the notion of political
correctness, but we're still caught up in our concerns about
controlling the spread of ideas.
Much is made of bringing out the goodness in humankind as
if the traits we deem as good are the "real" human traits,
and the ones we deem as bad are inhuman. I believe that being
human is both- we are all part monster. We'll never quite
get rid of the murderer, the assassin in each of us. The stories
of the most pious people in the world all speak of their struggle
with their human frailties, with their dark sides. Many stories
about Martin himeself speak of a man who was keenly aware
of the differences between the man and the legend.
So, here we are today, continuing the conversation that Martin
Luther King, Jr. helped to drive to a crescendo so many years
ago. A conversation so compelling, that killing the spokesperson
didn't kill the conversation. If his only legacy were that
his life caused us to create a day where we reflect on the
content of our character - a secular day of atonement - that
would be a good thing. Certainly, it was a life that meant
much more than that. :::
I saw the play "Proof" yesterday. The plot involves
a woman who is extremely gifted in mathematics; the daughter
of a groudbreaking thinker in the field who has recently died,
and the discovery of a notebook containing an extraordinary
mathematical proof. It's a very engaging piece that explores
many dimensions of the human condition. At its heart are questions
about the mind - the lines between genius and insanity, normal
and eccentric, careful and impulsive. It also illustrates
gender biases in an appropriately subtle way, without ever
getting preachy. This is not a "problem" play, instead it's
a drama that takes us on an exploration love, relationships,
and the nature of credibility.
Several months ago, I saw the play "Copenhagen", which
speculated about a meeting between Bohr and Heisenberg, and
the possibility of Hitler's scientists figuring out how to
make the atomic bomb. Like Proof, it had a small cast, and
dealt with a subject area (physics) that you might not think
would lend itself to great drama. Yet both succeed. I think
Proof gets you closer to the human dimensions and the psychology
of the situation that was unfolding. Copenhagen had more of
the feel of being a fly on the wall. It immersed you more
deeply in the amazing language of science.
Neither of these were mere "suspend disbelief and disappear
for a couple of hours" stories. They each gave you something
unsolved to take away and chew on for a while. Leaving you
with something to digest- what a novel idea! If you have access
to Broadway, I recommend both pieces. I don't even know if
Copenhagen is still running, but if it is, It's worth seeing.
I like being in New York for these things. Even though I
don't make regular use of them, I'm sure I would miss the
easy access to theatre, museums, and other cultural events
that are so plentiful here. This is a mecca for more than
business. If I ever move away from here, you know I'l be back
at least to visit.