Four Articles and a Poem

5:24 AM

Weekly, I post four articles that I found significant and a poem accompanied by some comments about what we can learn from them. Our lives are enriched by seeing better. Each week, one article comes from the world of photography, a discipline that is about seeing. Another article comes from the world of technology, hence seeing something of the future. Another article takes up an aspect of our life together, seeing more clearly the other. Another article refers to faith, seeing the unseen. Finally, the weekly post concludes with a poem, because poetry is about seeing words whose arrangement allows us to see anew.

This week, we will begin by looking at landscapes. We want to see the horizon. Then, with the faith story, I will share an unpreached funeral homily on the occasion of gun violence. Next, concerning how we live together, I share an article that names ways to reduce gun violence. The "technical" article compiles and interprets data around race and economic "success." Finally, I share a poem, a personal favorite, from Rainer Maria Rilke.
  1. Five Landscape Paintings to Study as a Landscape Photographer. Robert Rodriguez, Jr. is a wonderful, reflective landscape photographer living in the Hudson River Valley of New York. In this post from his blog, Rodriguez recommends that the study of landscape paintings can enhance one's practice of landscape photography. Personally, for my portraits, I have learned a lot from the Old Masters and their use of light.
  2. Words for Andre Green's funeral. My friend, Rev. Mike Mather, pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, is away from his church this month. Sadly, there was gun violence that took the life of a parishioner. While he was unable to preside or preach, Mike shared on his blog what he might have said.
  3. Three Necessary Reforms to Reduce Gun Violence in America. Just as Mike's homily makes personal the death of one young man, Christine Dickason reminds us: "Every day, 31 Americans are murdered with guns. In our society, we’re inundated with statistics — but these 31 Americans aren’t just an abstract number. They are our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. They are men, women, and children — people with dreams for the future." I believe that further steps are necessary, but these three may reduce some of the gun violence. The article also debunks some of the NRA's most frequent assertions.
  4. Following the success sequence? Success is more likely if you're white. Alex Gold, Edward Rodrigue, and Richard V. Reeves of the Brookings Institute respond to Rich Lowry of the National Review misusing their data in a review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. A significant missing element in Dickason's piece is race and addressing issues around race. Elsewhere, it has been written: "If better policy is your destination, then better data is your map" (h/t Richard V. Reeves' twitter stream). We need new ways of seeing.
Finally, if you did not read Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet as an undergraduate, I believe that you ought to demand a tuition refund from your college or university or you should return your diploma. The following poem captures some of Rilke's mystical faith in a very concrete expression of grief. This poem directed to God also conveys the author's deep reciprocal relationship with God.

"Pushing Through"
by Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated by Robert Bly)

It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.

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