We are an agitated people.
Surrounded by media, saturated with “news,” inundated by commentary and analysis, we begin and end and live our days in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety, us versus them, right versus left, and this right versus that wrong.
The more “news” we watch, the more analysts we follow, the more political speeches we hear, the more we are encouraged to see the problems as insurmountable, solvable only by fighting, combat, hostility, and dispute.
Obviously, there are problems. At base, they stem from greed, deception, selfishness, arrogance, and untrammeled ambition, because if we lived with the attitude that we are all family members sharing one earth, we wouldn’t countenance some members treating other members with disdain, cruelty, and disfavor.
“Ah, but that’s too simplistic, and you are naive,” we are told. “The situation is very complex.”
Indeed it is, more complex than the options we are given: vote for this, support him, listen to her, hate them, focus on that, censor “dangerous material.” The “other side” is told the opposite. Constantly, the answer involves dissent, division, disunity, and discord, but — and this is important — no serious, meaningful discussion. Such an attitude will rip any healthy family apart.
The artwork, Evening on the Willamette River, encourages us to step away from this atmosphere of agitation and angst, this place where we focus on disagreement and suspicion and noise and hate — even as we are in the midst of it — and think things through calmly, quietly, reflectively.
Intriguingly, this section of the river — so peaceful, so serene, so tranquil — is set in the middle of an urban freeway system. Not very far away, thousands of vehicles rush relentlessly past, in an area that is anything but calming, reflective, and thoughtful.
But at the river it is quiet, and there is great beauty in the shadows of the trees across the surface of the water, the soft glow of sunset in the twilight sky. As we focus on goodness, stillness, and quietude, we see the way we would like the world, our lives, our family to be, and we realize we won’t get there when our hearts are filled with fear and hate.
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