Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Livelihoods in lively 'hoods

William Morrish is a professor at Parsons The New School for Design in the Design and Urban Ecology program.  I asked him to look at "artifact sheets" I'd made about Main Street from my study.  There were 63 sheets all together, including the list of the 135 cities I've visited to date.  When I arrived at his office yesterday, I saw all the sheets taped to the wall, with words highlighted, drawings added -- the sheet on Times Square even had a piece of tracing paper over it with a drawing of the mega screen on it.

Main Street Artifact Sheets on the wall at Professor Morrish's office

He walked me slowly through the sheets and as we talked, connections began to emerge.  The aerial photo of Orange NJ before the highway went through was like the painting by Ralph Fasanella, dense with life and work and providing the energy for Main Street.  The signs of exclusion -- Elmo boxed in in Times Square, the old neon of a Jersey City restaurant and the markers of private property in LA -- were connected.  And in those spaces of exclusion/inclusion we could see the ways in which life was unfolding, with its the passages -- the wedding scene and a time we went to pray at a temple in Kyoto -- and its daily delights, like the wonderful pastrami in Newark.  The singular pulsing, dynamism of life, which finds such an important point of organization on Main Street, lifted off the page, for us to see, as we followed Bill's remarkable chain of association along the wall.  I went home, not stunned by the myriad images that singularly fascinated and baffled me, but refreshed by the unity of life.

This morning's reading from the Center for Action and Contemplation was "Love thy neighbor AS thyself."  Cynthia Bourgeault wrote, "There are not two individuals out there, one seeking to better herself at the price of the other, or to extend charity to the other; there are simply two cells of one great Life.  Each of them is equally precious and necessary.  And as these two cells flow into one another, experiencing that one Life from the inside, they discover that 'laying down one's life for another' is not a loss of one's self but a vast expansion of it -- because the indivisible reality of love is the only True Self."

Fascinating to experience 62 artifact sheets intertwining to make one reality of Main Street, as people need to make one intertwining of collective life.

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