In the Eye of the Beholder, Beauty

We are all members of the legions, eyes wandering and wondering what is real in all we see today, here in a colorful carnival where various hues spill the best and worst of our collective human character.  Both pictures exist.  The cosmic intersection of our lives is not so much a collision of opposing forces as much as it is a blender, a steady flowing of the complexities, the brilliant emotions and supernova uncertainties of our times.  Love is perennial, and danger seems to be everywhere.  In a blink we are confident and comforted, in another we are lost and disillusioned.  In a flash we are in the cool aqua of school or a house of worship, and in an instant we are in the fire of red or speedily off in another cautionary dash of yellow, the warnings of orange, mourning the loss of all held safe and sacred.  Where is the balance in the spectrum?

For a fortunate few of us, it was discovered at The Heritage School in East Harlem here at year’s end when a teen named Sade revealed a crying eye of her own creation.  Operation Respect, with our intuitive partners Counseling In Schools and Lycored, staged the Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your True Colors project with creative, young spirits, prepared but unsure of what was to flow.  One activity called for students to simply choose a color to fill a blank white box to reflect the feelings of the moment.  With no parameters or instructions, the results poured forth, including Sade’s.  While most adults would perhaps pick one color and solidly fill in their space, by rote and hardly a thought, the students lifted multiple colors and a river of expression appeared.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I would submit a rainbow-crying eye is priceless.

I have awoken on the eve of this new year swirling in all observed in 2019.  We have traversed communities, into the Deep South and up to the high peaks of the Rockies, Madison Avenue to Harlem, board rooms to classrooms.  The mission calls for audiences across the kaleidoscope of our complex culture.  Joy is prevalent, if not hesitant.  Laughter is heard, if rather reserved.  Tears flow, even on canvass.  We have seen much, and learned more, always more, from the young.  Sade’s eye summed up the year’s entire experience, in a manner only the truthful and the innocent are courageous and honest enough to do.
For is it not the nature of the aged or the jaded to box in our condition, with fear alienating the spirit, in a false sense of individual protection?  What color are our boxes as the years and decades pass?  Sometimes it is tempting to simply stare, unmovable, at the blank, provocative and unforgiving white box.
Gentleness is often misunderstood.  It is formidable when unleashed in all its complex creativity.  Sade reached for the colors, and welcoming the bountiful blender stirring inside, an eye appeared, emotive for reasons only she knows and dares to show.  As she is offering this sight to be seen, she reserves the right to reveal only as much as she cares to, or is capable of – and in this is a gentle courage, too.  For are we not all privileged to carry privately the source of what moves us, along with a human dignity to offer it up, share it as witness, deliver it with purpose?  How else are we to be fully human if we are not both, simultaneously, resilient and vulnerable, strong and broken, approachable and afraid.
There is a false choice in circulation today.  It speaks of a binary place on the planet, a line in the colorless sand, where one is to stand, but none are to cross.  Categories and silos define our positions, buckets and brands contain our impulses, and borders and boundaries drive our identities.
There is another way, and it is neither a retreat to a time that never really existed, or a leap into a tomorrow yet unproven.  It is neither a state of blue or red.  It is an embrace of the colors of our natural complexion, as ancient as Genesis and as radiant as ever today.  The answer can be found in colorful tears flowing from a young lady named Sade in East Harlem.  Her message to us as we enter this pivotal and uncertain decade is: sorrow and tears are warranted, but don’t be afraid to reveal the rainbow.
May we all find Sade’s 20/20 vision in year 2020.
Written by John McKenna, Executive Director

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