Reflections and Shadows

Reflections and Shadows

2013-09-25 12.18.16

I visited Birmingham, AL this past week while calling on a casket distributor and some funeral homes attempting to get a new phase of our business, Simple Way Coffin, going. I drove by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which is just across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church and noticed in Kelly Ingram Park what is referred to as the “Four Spirits Statue.”

I drove on by and I believe a Spirit urged me to come back, to take a picture, and to stop in the middle of the day and spend time in reflecting on the meaning of this statue and the history and sacrifice depicted here and in the surrounding buildings and park. Perhaps a Spirit will urge you to stop what you are doing and think about these things too… The picture above and the links above are enough for long periods of study. You may wish to spend a whole day visiting this area, the museums and church and park and statue, and to think….. Thinking, meditation, and reflection may be becoming lost arts in our fast paced society. I wish you well if you decide to attain to these disciplines.

In those days then President John F. Kennedy responded the day after the killings by saying, “If these cruel and tragic events can only awaken that city and state – if they can only awaken this entire nation to a realization of the folly of racial injustice and hatred and violence, then it is not too late for all concerned to unite in steps toward peaceful progress before more lives are lost.”

President Kennedy’s words still ring true for those who believe in Racial Reconciliation, Social Justice, and the ethics of Peace and Nonviolence. Surely these words ring true also for the rest of the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, and multitudes of other bombing tragedies that occur so often they are not in the news, and are, unless extra brutal, passed on by without reflection of the folly of attempting to overcome Evil with more Evil, Hatred with more Hatred, and Falsehood with more Falsehood.

Open the picture up full screen and take some time to think about these matters…. Read the links… Read the names…. I will mention just a few of my reflections….

It was a sunny day; notice the shadows cast by the gentle rays of the Fall sun…. Notice the landscaping, flowers and other statues in the exquisitely well-kept park… Notice the 6 doves released in my view to God above, who keeps in my view the Spirits of all mankind, those who subscribe to our personal religious systems, and those who subscribe to other systems too… Or, who subscribe to no systems… Notice the girls have no defense systems. What good would a gun, a sword, or any method of overcoming Evil with more Evil have done? Overcoming Evil with Good is all they could possibly have done, and are actually still doing.. 6 Spirits… These 4 girls died, but the same day two other girls died… The girls are in the process of physical development… They were only 11 to 14 years old… I can only imagine they still occasionally played with dolls, and I cannot imagine they had seen much violence on TV back then that is now our steady diet. “Gunsmoke,” and Matt Dillon was about as violent as it got on TV back then. In those days the news was sanitized, as it is now in the United States. No blood, no guts on TV…. The terrible wars we were in back then… The public was protected from seeing people actually die… We still are, basically… We do not see the results of our long range missiles, and Drones…. It could be your own girls… What would stop anyone with a heart of Evil from killing your children, or killing you?

Notice what appears to be a cloth under the kneeling girl… Is she praying? Should we pray too? I thought later that I should have offered to pray with another woman who was there taking pictures too… Do our prayers matter? Does God hear our prayers? What could we pray for? For forgiveness? For Peace? For Justice? For ourselves and our own sins? Notice the kneeling girl is not wearing shoes…. The shoes are in the shadows on the ground… Is this Holy Ground? Where are the other girl’s shoes, the girl that is reaching to the doves, or perhaps reaching to heaven? Where are the shoes? Really poor people do not have shoes… The girl sitting on the bench has a book in her lap… Is that a Bible? I imagine so… I imagine she believed the words of the Bible… I imagine other things too, that God is Good, that Justice will be done, not retributive Justice, but Justice to restore and draw us all to God, including the killers of these little girls. Including us too… Our own hands are not clean who benefit from the injustice done to black slaves and the injustice we as a nation do in other parts of the world… Including Presidents and the CIA who do it too… Including me, who used to pay taxes to support warfare. I say used to; now I am living under the level that requires me to pay Federal taxes… But, there are all those hidden taxes… It is these systems we all grow up in, including those systems of our perceived enemies, including the four little girls… Men’s systems that are less than perfect, that are not “Exceptional.” Except Exceptionally Evil, they are…

Therefore, we look to a better Kingdom, a better system, as these little girls seem to be looking… Maybe there will come a better Kingdom… Maybe if we just go to a hilltop we can envision it from far off… Just to look at it as our father Abraham, not to enter it yet… Maybe there will be a Millennium on earth and these little girls will be resurrected to live in it, to grow up, have families of their own, and to forgive their killers…. You may say there is no hope, no future, but I disagree… The statues told me that there is a hope and a future for those who at least pause to reflect upon the shadows of the past that haunt us…

Grace, Peace,

John Cooper

About jcooperforpeace
Spiritual Director, Spirituality of Inner Peace

2 Responses to Reflections and Shadows

  1. wbhenley says:

    Your blog was beautiful and heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. Thank you!

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