Years ago, I remember the Olympic French synchronized swimming team concocting a routine that consisted of the swimmers acting out parts of the Holocaust -- both the Nazi guards and their Jewish victims, being marched to the gas chambers and reenacting various deaths. Faces of Death! Underwater! With French swimmers goose-stepping! In the words of Tony Soprano, One bad idea after another . . . In his moving defense, the routine's creator said he thought it clever and innovative, even witty in places. Dear Lord, the man could have lied! The French already have that little to no sense of humor reputation. (Being part French, I can say this is true if my relatives are any example. Their sense of humor consists of attacking your weakest spots and laughing hysterically. Ha!) He could have put it in the category of "trauma art," art that helps to heal old wounds by doing strange things. Jochen Gertz and Esther Shavlev-Gertz's anti-fascism memorial in Hamburg, Germany started as an attempt to help heal the trauma of the Holocaust. The memorial (1986) consisted of a single pillar enrobed in lead so that visitors could scratch their names and thoughts into the surface. The pillar was designed to sink beneath the ground in stages as to mimic the nature of memory. Because a fair percentage of the visitors scrawled anti-semitic sentiments on it, it can now can be viewed only through a glass wall.
So the question becomes an interesting one. What started out as a supposed healing is now a humiliation, sinking ever so slowly into the earth. The memorial wasn't monitored -- it was supposed to be honest, to let everyone have their say. Only when it was discovered what people actually would say were government officials horrified. Does honest expression heal trauma or perpetuate it? I suppose our whole life is kind of like that peculiar piece of art -- the things people say to us written forever on our hearts until they fade into the ground, the marrow of our bones. Some trauma you can see clearly; other trauma has long since sunk below the surface. But it's all there, behind glass, waiting for someone to take a brick and bust it open, to right things or ruin them some more. Like the artists found out, if you open it to everyone, you never can predict what will happen.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days." Ecclesiastes 11:1
Drinking movie suggestion: Melinda and Melinda
Benedictions and Maledictions
Your Wife Is Outside
You are trying to tell me something
but your wife is outside, waiting. It is
the dark hour between office and home.
The moment passes; I shake out my
umbrella, still wet with this morning's
rain. I let you leave first. What can I say?
I love the night, but it does not love me.