What is it that holds us together?

And for that matter, what is it that holds us apart?

Is it will, circumstances, opportunities, restrictions? What is it?

Is it a bit of all of these?

I visited a thoughtful art museum in Jerusalem, the Museum on the Seam. As the museum’s website describes itself, it is a “unique museum in Israel, displaying contemporary art that deals with different aspects of the socio-political reality.” It’s a museum that “calls for listening and discussion, for accepting the other and those different from us and respect for our fellow man and his liberty.”

Even though the Museum’s name and location, (it is situated on the boundary of East and West Jerusalem and in an old military Israeli forward post of the wars of 1948 and 1967,) it is not a museum about only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it wrestles with conflicts and human adversity from various perspectives from many situations and realities all over the globe.

It puts our conflicts and our disagreements into dialogue. Sometimes I wonder if we are held closer together somehow in our conflict than we are even in our joy and peace. There is a mutual pain that some how binds. I recall the slightly pessimistic, though often practical, advice; keep your friends close and your enemies closer…

This is a provocative land where people rub up against each other and then are separated by walls in their hearts, minds and land, with a few people daring to dance in and around the seam. Just like the clothes we wear it is the seam where different pieces connect and it is the seam that holds it all together. Dialogue and understanding happen in and at the seam because that’s the only place it can.

I’ve loved the people I have met at the seam.

You may not be able to read what is written in Hebrew, Arabic and English (in neon) on the front of the museum, “Olive Trees will be our borders.”

..And yes the building still holds the scares of war. Let the seam be for dialogue not for war.

South Africa – but a brief pause…

Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Stellenbosch, Johannesburg… SA you’ve shown me many sides of yourself. And you haven’t been bashful or reserved … for the most part you’ve unapologetically said, “This is us, this is who we are.”

These two months in SA introduced me to people, attitudes and beliefs as different from one another as different can be. It would be similar to putting together a picture of America by visiting New York City, Mobile (Alabama), El Paso (Texas), and Monterey, California. The food and language (if only the accent) change, the common stories, the culture, the weather, the topography, the worldviews … and often very largely the politics take on varied and different images, heroes and villains, mantras and foci … for life looks a little different depending on the vantage point you have. History, choices and opportunities deal different cards and cards dealt don’t necessarily feel very fair or make clear sense.

South Africa I am nowhere near figuring you out …

…so let’s just pause the conversation while I head up to Jerusalem. I’ll be there for a couple months. In the Holy Lands I will begin to experience both the sacred and the secular of a place that provokes many images as well … everything from majesty and triumph to division and fear.

So till next time SA…

May God continue to heal your wounds and bless your efforts to reconcile and find justice. May God bring enough to those who know only want. May God relieve those who burden themselves with hate. And may God bring wholeness to all your people.

Knowing in Mysore

“My what?” “Mysore, Mysore, you have to go to Mysore.” “OooooOk.”

My Lonely Planet South India guidebook does point out the Mysore Palace as one of the top 10 South India highlights … So why not? Mysore it is.

There are a number of architectural draws in Mysore; the Mysore Palace by day or night,

the Sri Chamundeswari Temple on top of Chamundi Hill,St Philomen’a Cathedral or even the Art Gallery. I saw them all, they were beautiful but I was drawn to the people around them much more… The grandness of architecture, though I appreciate its beauty and even brilliance, always begs me to ask; so I understand the history of the people who lived here or worked here, what about the people who built it? What are their stories? What would they say to this monument, this church, this temple? Did it define their lives, enhance it? Or did it alter it or consume it?

Those stories are often difficult to find, they are lost in the vagueness of someone else’s history, somewhere beyond what we might wonder and what we’ll never know.  The people visiting these places along with me and those currently making a living in their shadow seem less of a mystery. I might wonder about them but I also know with some confidence that…

…this father-son team make some awesome street food.

…this couple is in love.

…these school kids are just as lost as any school kids on a field trip, this trip just happens to be to the temple.

…everyone gets bored at work. (Hindu Priest standing outside the Temple)

…if you stand some were long enough with a camera pointed at you, someone will ask if they can have their picture “snapped” with you…