Following up on yesterday's post on beauty, I wanted to share something unfolding in my own life.
As many of you who follow this blog know, I live in the downtown area of the city of Chicago. I have lived there for thirteen years now. Many of you have seen the photos I post during the winter and summer months from my small balcony. The property right outside my balcony was a beautifully landscaped courtyard of a restaurant complex, whose owners carefully took care of the land, cultivating trees to maturity. The area is filled with birds of all kinds and lots of frolicking squirrels. To sit on that balcony, especially when my own flower boxes are in bloom, has been a delight for me for years, kind of my own little oasis in the busy city and in my busy life.
The property was sold to a developer several months ago. He is snatching up vacant property throughout my neighborhood and building apartment complexes. For the most part, the developer has taken eyesores and built four-story apartment complexes on the lots, definitely improving the appearance. But the lot next door we thought was different. Loaded with trees, we were all certain that the developer would build something that was truly special in the city, a complex that would be like none other, one that would be nestled within the existing park-like setting.
I guess I am a naive dreamer. I exercised my rights as a taxpaying citizen. I attended three meetings of our neighborhood community and expressed my concerns that the developer's plans included gobbling up the entire space and destroying the little forest that exists on the property. I spoke with my alderman's representatives. I sent emails directly to my alderman. Two nights ago, at what was the "final" meeting, I told those in attendance that, in conscience, I had to object to this destructive plan one more time, pleading for the saving of the green, open space. We were all told that "demolition will begin tomorrow." Deal done. When I got home Monday night, I stood on my balcony and just gazed at this natural beauty that had become such a part of my day to day life. I took a video of the area a week ago, when many of the trees were flowering.
I guess I still held out some hope that night that some miracle would take place. Why would the man who is the controlling owner of the development company (the owner of two of our professional sports teams here in the city) want to destroy something held so dear by so many? I only came up with one answer: for the money.
Last night, when I got home, I realized that my naive hopes were be crushed. It's simply all gone. Beauty sacrificed for corporate greed. I am filled with lament and sadness. All that, of course, is tempered by the fact that I have a job, I have a home, I have food on my table, all of which I am so grateful for. But a little part of me died along with those trees yesterday. My eternal optimism, which gets me into trouble too often, was taken down a notch yesterday. Here is the same view, taken last night.
Next week in Buffalo at the conference of Catechetical Leaders, I will be speaking about discovering the Good News in the liturgy; much of what I will have to say will focus on the power of art, the power of beauty to transform us. Liturgy, for many of us, is our own oasis of beauty in our busy lives. I lost one of those oases yesterday. I try always to bring my own life into the liturgy. These days I will bring a sense of sadness and loss; I will be looking for transformation.
Thanks for listening.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.