Sunday, January 5, 2014


Addressed to all who are passionately dedicated to the search for new 'epiphanies' of beauty
--John Paul II, Letter to Artists

On the outskirts of every University event here lurks a man.
He is a silent, observant man.
He never participates in the event, he only watches and records what he sees.
He will find little perches to rest himself, to capture from his daring vantage point a point of view no one else would have been able to have seen.
He then displays his captured moments for anyone to see.
He knows that you can only capture such a fleeting thing as a moment if you are patient, silent, and have keen vision.

I looked out over the dark woods by the dark lake, knowing that those woods were filled with a very chilly, biting autumn air; but here we were, our noses red, our cheeks flushed by cold and wine, and our bodies toasty and cozy from tip to toe.
As the conversation continued without my assistance, I looked around the large room, grown hazy with the warmth of its occupants, and saw many dinners ending and conversations dwindling at the dark, solid wooden tables all around us.
Next to us, a slight boy with hair like flax talked to his mother across the table from him.
They had left the table where they had been dining with his companions and classmates.
They sat across from one another: he with a pint of beer, she with a cup of coffee.
And they talked.
First, as mother and son.
He shifted the pint glass from hand to hand, she circled the lip of the cup with her finger.
They laughed.
His mother wrinkled her brow in concern.
They talked more.
Then, at the end of the conversation, the mother reached across the table to touch the hand of her son.
And the boy with the hair like flax looked like a man.
They got up and walked back to the table of his companions, smiling at each other the way one does after a satisfying and illuminating conversation.
An aura of a rite of passage hung about them .

I looked around one evening as we sat in the boisterously joyful Stare Miasto in Kraków, taking in the sights of young couples walking by with toddlers holding their hands, the couples laughing, the young groups of children chattering in Polish.
I realized that none of them—none of us—could remember what this square had been like before. I looked at the fathers of the young children, the mothers walking with their teenaged daughters.
I wondered what their memories of this square had been.
The mothers may have remembered when it was perhaps not so lively.
They had memories of a colder time, when Poland was behind a wall of Iron Curtain.
But just a few years later, those realities had disappeared into the fuzzy realm of memory.
I looked at the grandparents, sitting, listening to the sound of the accordion and bass playing a folk song in tandem.
I watched them as they watched the young men dancing in the streets.
I wondered what their memories of this square had been.
Could they remember the day, I wondered, when the Nazis marched into the heart of Kraków.
When a joyful gathering like a few boys break dancing would have been an occasion of danger.

Today’s youth are also so different from those who came before. In the past, the younger generations were shaped by the painful experience of the war, of concentration camps, of constant danger. This experience allowed young people—I imagine all over the world, although I have Polish youth in mind—to develop great traits of heroism.
--John Paul II

I looked at the community of people crowded into that square. What heroic feats of love, great feats or small, everyday feats had those elderly women walking by performed?
I wondered how they had managed to survive, to thrive in an environment of constant danger. And I marveled that anyone who had lived through such times could sit in a square, watching young men break-dance, and laugh for the sheer joy of living.

He awakens energies of mind and heart which enable it to conceive an idea and give it form in a work of art. It is right then to speak, even if only analogically, of “moments of grace”, because the human being is able to experience in some way the Absolute who is utterly beyond.
--John Paul II

We stood in the Basilica on the feast of Christ the King, Lord of the Universe-- Let us pause and acknowledge the almost ridiculously majestic title of that feast.
Who can claim such a title?
It is rather uncharacteristically Romantic of us to create such a title, but as we sang a hymn whose broad beauty shook the choir loft, I felt in my heart what an accurate title it was.
The universe, broad, deep, and filled with stars and empty pockets between galaxies had a voice, and with its voice it was singing some aerial and ephemeral harmony.
It was the harmony we were singing.

I put the Carole King record on the turntable, and took up my broom and swept the entire floor.
I opened up our front door to shake out the dusty runner, and a burst of sunlight air flooded the front entry-way, swirling through the air and between the floating dust spots with the moody notes of Ms. King.
I think the greatest gift my parents gave me was an open front door.
I grew up my entire life with the front door open.
In the summer, the screen door was left to smash into the door frame twenty plus times a day, as we ran from the outdoors to the indoors hastily and with muddy abandon.
Children ran in and out with frequency, the summer air (and several dozen mosquitoes) filled the front hallway of our home every day.

When I thought of the padlocked iron gate in Kolkata, I realized what a luxury the open door of my childhood summers was.
Because in cities, I realized you can't keep the door open and let people stream in and out of your house with abandon.

The outdoors and the indoors were united in my front hallway as I swept out the runner.
I caught a whiff of my roommate's vanilla candle and the hearty smell of fallen leaves combining. It was a rich and rejuvenating air.

the Absolute Beauty, beyond all the beauty of the children of this earth.

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