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Thursday, January 18, 2001
10:11 PM      

Mr. 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.

[ link | e-me ]

Monday, January 15, 2001
11:31 PM      

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.

[ link | e-me ]
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