Thursday, June 15, 2006

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I’m writing from the Atlanta airport waiting for my connecting flight to Birmingham for General Assembly – Presbydom’s very own State Fair complete with politicians, exhibits, judging contests, spectacles, and lots and lots of people selling stuff. Rather than the tilt-a-whirl action ride, we have the theolog-a-whirl of Presbyterian politics. I’m on pilgrimage to Presbypalooza, my friends.

But before I post later tonight on the events of the day, I wanted to share a bit about the journey. As I’ve written before, part of the adventure of travel is the trip – I love discovering the quirky, the local, the unusual. It’s one of the themes of the recent Pixar film Cars – a nostalgia for the grand old days of travel. I thought that such an ethos had been lost.

Then I found that the Atlanta airport has done something wonderful. On the passageway between Concourse T and Concourse A, they have installed an exhibit of sculpture by contemporary Zimbabwean sculptors. This line of massive works stretches down the center of the wide walkways, inviting travelers to disengage from the fast lane -- to avoid the moving sidewalks of efficiency, and to stroll among these megalithic sculptures from another land. Along the walls of that stretch are massive photos of life in Zimbabwe, making the otherwise bland walkway awash with color – contrasting nicely with the polished blacks and greys and muted browns of the sculpture.

Two of these sculptures capture the range of my experience – the first was titled “Water Spirit”. It was a low flat topped scultpture about four to five feet long. It depicted a serpentine woman with long flowing hair and flipper-like hands. Her vacant eyes stared up and her pursed lips was cut into a small frown – as though she were trying to suck some victim that was eluding her. It was haunting and didn’t feel safe – like the mermaids from Harry Potter or from Peter Pan – creatures of darkness in touch with dark things.

I forget the name of the second – it was a giant work of a man embracing a huge eagle, and the eagle embracing the man back. The eagle’s wings were spread out wide and it’s head hooked over the man’s shoulder. It suggested the intimate connection of humanity with the rest of creation – the concern that is deep within the heart that we ought to feel. I was strongly reminded of our role as bearers of the divine image who are stewards of the earth and all God’s good creations.

Now, whether you like my musings about the sculpture or not – consider this – the Atlanta airport has done something nice and original to make the journey an experience once again. They didn’t have to do it – the travelers are their prisoners while they await their next flight – and yet they did it. I wonder if Seth Godin would call this a Purple Cow? Kudos to the planners of this exhibit.

Soli Deo Gloria