Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lamenting the Loss of Beauty

Wednesday greetings on a cool but bright and sunny morning here in Chicago.

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.


Anonymous said...

Real estate in desirable neighborhoods in Boston is now approaching formerly associated only with Manhattan. The Christian Science church sold a patch of land near its Vatican at the edge of the Back Bay that's going to be turned into a >60 story luxury hi-rise.

I joked with the pastor of St Cecilia's just a few hundred feet away from this that he should ask for mitigation ("mitigation" is the coin of the realm for development-speak with the almighty Boston Redevelopment Authority) in the form of having at least half the residents be actively practicing Catholics....

Denise Anderson said...

All your instincts are right Jerry... You have fought for the common good, for creation, for generative delight, and a relational space for animals, beauty, nature, and people within and around~ It even seems anti-Chicago, since beauty and nature are often promoted as much as possible, even amid concrete areas. You probably also spoke for many who were not able to do so. I'm sorry you lost the fight and sorry for your loss.

Spirit and art always find a way through. I hope they somehow find you and your balcony again, despite all of of this uncompromising destruction... Angering, sad, and probably unnecessary on all accounts... Except for the simplistic goals of narcissistic greed and unimaginative possibilities... Thanks for being a voice in the wilderness ~

Denise Morency Gannon said...

I think that your loss of your trees may be a magnificent case in point for what we must lose to build God's reign. Your efforts to work with government community is what's expected of any good citizen, just as working with the church is expected of any baptized Christian. The catch is working on behalf of the common good. And although your trees may be your loss, the new structures that replace them will create homes for a new community, one that may need the gift of beauty that your own balcony provides.

I have a friend whose balcony in her condo complex can be seen by thousands who drive on an industrial expressway. She adorns the balcony with gorgeous seasonal flowers and plants, lights candles and twinkle lights every day and every night. When I asked her why she does this, she said "Because it's beautiful for everyone. " Altruism at its best.

The real crux of the matter is how to find beauty within all of the corporate greed that surrounds us and to help one another discover that Beauty will always overcome because Beauty is always within us, waiting to emerge and serve the other.

The places that we live all underwent transformation to become what we call home. Landscapes change, transition is difficult and greed will always be ready to devour optimism. In my opinion, the call of the Christian is to draw upon Beauty who waits to transform the negatives to positives, to see change as opportunity and to create new community, like a new sapling begins to grow when older trees are pruned or removed.

Mary Kane Mauer said...

The real loss is the oxygen which trees have always provided. It is sobering to fly across the continental US and see more concrete, asphalt, brick, mortar, concrete, etc., and less forests. We are losing the forests to the lumbering,mining and commercial agricultural industries. We all lose in the rape of our natural resources.