Monday, December 5, 2016

Remembrance of Things Past

First spotted on Farrell & Baristo at 4 am in Palm Springs
     One of the things I must do everyday for my health is walk. Also, one of the things I must also do several times a day, is walk my dog. Should I feel lazy or not be active enough you can bet she will be there to remind me.
     There are the potty walks about the condo complex and there is the walk, a 30 - 45 minute walk I have dubbed the WPP (walk, poop and potty). How do I know its time? Well, first there is the stare. Then she gets closer smiling and bumping me. When that fails a paw touches my knee over and over again until I get up.
   On one of the routes we take there is a memorial to someone on the corner of Baristo and Farrell here in Palm Springs. I assume that someone died in an accident but it been there for several months and includes solar lights that glow when we take our now infamous 4 am walks through the dark desert landscape. Seeing it that first time made me pause and begin to remember how humans remember the past, loved ones, success in war, success of the heart.
The evolving memorial in daylight.
While we usually walk very early ... that 4 am feeding you know ... but sometimes I feed her then crawl back into bed. Occasionally I walk our nighttime route during the day and was amazed at how much the memorial changed from day to day. Clearly someone cared and was deeply missed.
     On a sad note though, today when we walked past during a glorious sunrise, the memorial was gone. Only a few pieces remained scattered across the empty land.
     Why are memorials so important to us? What do they signify? I began to notice shrines appearing in our neighborhood when more and more Asians, many from Viet Nam or China placed them on the ubiquitous fireplaces that every one of the houses had on our street. In the early morning glow you would see red electric lights on a mysterious, to Western eyes, shrine that had little statues, fruit and the ever glowing red lights.
Like Shelly's "Ozymandias", nothing besides remains
Home Buddhist Shrinemore intimate and immediate!
      On inquiry, I was told these shrines kept the memory of past ancestors alive to the living and each light was a person they would pray for. Not all that different from some Christian traditions ... only we usually do that in a church. This is
Memorial Flowers for Princess Di
     When Princess Di died in the car crash the sudden and spontaneous cascade of flowers that appeared in London brought worldwide attention to this phenomenon. Who can forget the days of memorials and scenes of thousands of mourners who paid their respect with flowers? Thousands of flowers.
     Suddenly it became okay for people to create scenes such as this in memory of those that passed ... for whatever reason.

Road Side Memorials are
everywhere today
     Who has not driven along the a highway and not witnessed a scene such as this? In passing you have to wonder what happened, what tragedy was here that caused loved ones and others to return to pay their respect? As we scurry by, I am sure that more than a few of us hope that such a need will not be required for us. Do we slow down just a little? Do we watch the road a bit more carefully? Do we think of those that died here? 
Entrance into Jerash, Jordan
     The tradition of celebrating some event has been with us through the ages. I can remember my visit to Jerash, Jordan. To enter the ancient Roman city, you went through a memorial arch constructed by Hadrian in celebration of defeating whomever lived there at the time. Of course, the effect of such monuments is both inspiring as it reminds us of past victories and the people who won them. Such Roman monuments litter the ancient Roman Empire and have inspired far more modern men to erect them too! Napoleon's "Arc de triomphe" in Paris, the Arch in Washington Square in NYC and the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. All iconic sights that instantly bring to mind where they are. And, I might add, owe their design and inspiration from Ancient Rome.
Memorial to those who perished in the OKC bombing
   Sadly, we only seem to remember the tragedies of life. When I was traveling to Memphis with my daughter with the car we were giving her, we stopped along the way at a variety of places. One was in Oklahoma City. After eating a wonderful meal in an area of old warehouses converted into a trendy attraction of shops and eateries, we were encouraged to see the memorial of those who has died at the bombing of the Murrah Building by Timothy Mc Vie. Since it was Memorial Day weekend we weren't sure of what we would see but we later found out it is open 24 / 7 and that people come to pay their respects rain or shine.
     To not be moved by the serenity of the scene and realize the enormity of the building, the site is in the footprint of the original building, you have to gasp. 168 people died. There is a chair for each and every one, large for adults, small for children, with a light underneath and during our visit a small American flag alongside each chair. The site is marked at each end with a marker that tells the time it started and the time it ended. I cried. Only a minute had passed.
     Across the street, the parsonage of the old Methodist Church was also destroyed. In its place is a stature of Christ, hands covering his face, crying. The inscription reads simply, "Jesus wept."

The 9 / 11 Memorial in New York City
    There are countless memorials to humans, their deeds and often misdeeds. However, for many, especially those living on September 9, 2001, no memorial brings greater sadness than remembering that fateful day when so many died and so many structures came down with them. When I was in NYC before the new memorial opened I just couldn't visit the site. The memory of seeing the second plane hit Trade Tower 1 as I waited for the Super Shuttle to take me to LAX for a flight to Chicago that morning was just too much. I remember walking my dog the next day and looking up startled, and just a little bit scared when a military plane flew overhead.
     There are many monuments and traditions that cover the world ... all designed by men and women that remind us of what has been. To forget them, is to then relive these same events or as the great
Spanish philosopher Santayana said, "Those that forget history are doomed to relive it." Is that what we really want?
Oakland,  CA rave fire memorial
     How many times, how many lives do we have to lose to learn this very basic lesson? Right now we are mourning all those that died in Oakland, CA at a Rave concert because of senseless practices that many knew was a time bomb just waiting to happen. You have to wonder, how many fires, shady prevention practices, do we need to forego such senseless tragedies? Even sadder yet, no matter who is found to blame, no matter how large the fines and long the jail sentences are, the dead will not, cannot be, brought back. There will always be accidents, things that we cannot predict nor protect against, but those that can be and are not is unacceptable. Not today, not ever.
     So to all those people out there that hated and often flunked history, there is a lesson in all of this. Start remembering and stop making the same mistakes over and over again.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

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