Picture Meditations

My daughter gave me a book for Christmas, Humans of New York Stories, by Grandon Stanton. In the hustle and bustle of package opening, I wasn’t able to stop and check out what the book was about. This morning I had a chance to see that it is a series of photos with quotes of citizens who live and work in the neighborhoods of the city of New York. Not what I expected at first glance, I find that it is a meditation book. The reflections are short, from a couple of words to quarter-page paragraph, but I find that are packed with truth, humor and spiritual depth.

This morning there was a picture of a man about my age with his furry collar tucked up around his neck. He had a receding hair line and his white hair was being blown by the wind to stand up strightl A cold day for an interview. I related to his comments. “I have been a deep believer my whole life,” he said and then he gave a two sentence history. He is even an ordained pastor, he said. “But it has stopped making sense to  me. You see people doing terrible things on the name of religion and you think, ‘Those people believe just as strongly as I do. They are just as convinced as I am.'” He goes on to say, “If a plane crashes and one person survives, everyone thanks God. They say, ‘God had a purpose for that person. God saved her for a reason!’ Do we not realize  how cruel that is? Do we not realize how cruel it is to say that if God had a purpose for that person, he also had a purpose for killing everyone in killing everyone else on the plane?”

I remember thinking this exact same thing after tornadoes took out dozens of home after they swept through a town in the southwest. One family was interviewed and talked about God’s blessing in protecting their family members. All I could think about were the families all around them who had family members killed in the storm.

The man mentioned other scenerios – millions of children starving, slavery and genocide. “Every time you say there’s a purpose behind one person’s success, you invalidate billions of people. You say there is a purpose to their suffering. And that’s just cruel.” This man has learned in a deeper way than most the meaning of the golden rule, to want for others what you would want for yourself.

All this in a picture and a few words.


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