Amsterdam: God’s Rembrandt

Amsterdam is God’s Rembrandt, a piece of stunningly horrific beauty. 

Built in 1956, the year I was born, this World War II memorial represents the suffering inflicted upon this region. This, after all, is the place where dozens of youngsters like Anne Frank, like Corrie Ten Boom, participated in very treacherous adventures of hide-and-seek with the Germans.

The canals of this town are filled with the tears of those who have known an agony I can only imagine but never comprehend. 

Just beyond this arch is a courtyard, site of the former Civil orphanage, where abandoned children longed, from the 16th Century until the 1960s.  

And here, beyond these doors, women have sought shelter from horrors unimaginable, and sometimes simply from a world too preoccupied with selfish pursuits.

The doors are shut against those who would seek to devour tender souls, but the problem, of course , is that there is no way to shut out the human in all of us.

We each hold within us the capacity for creating works of great beauty. And it matters, the creating we do.  That which we create can survive us, can honor and minister to others for generations to come.

 But, it seems to me, that destruction is simply creativity taking a detour down the wrong road. It takes a lot of energy, focus, and determination, after all, to enslave another. Amsterdam’s history in the sex trade or drug industry bears witness to creativity gone awry. 

I was thinking about the double-nature of man and creativity last night as Tim and I were having dinner at Dam Square.

It always comes back to which path we choose: For better or for worse. For good or for evil. Living for God or for self.

It is always such tug, this push and pull called Creation. Our great capacity for good marred by our  troubling propensity to create hurt  for ourselves and others.  Amsterdam  is a study in the nature of creativity, that place where the goodness of us becomes irrevocably interwoven with pain that is us.

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  • Karen, I hope you have a chance to visit the Anne Frank House.

    • We did, Chad. Both Corrie Ten Boom and Anne Frank on the same day. The line to the Frank house this morning wrapped around two blocks. We went back this evening and got in without any wait.

      • So glad. I went once in July and once in February, both times the line was wrapped around the building. One of the most powerful things for me in that house is seeing where Anne and Margot marked their heights on the wall.

        • Yep. My eyes burned over that one. But the writer in me loves that Anne prevailed. She became that author and journalist, after all.

  • AFRoger

    Bon voyage!
    May your travels also be a journey, a further excursion into humanity and this thing called living. I can say without a doubt that my life and my view of the world were changed considerably in the summer of 1968. After two months of the art, architecture, churches, castles, scenery and culture of German-speaking Austria, we concluded with a little bus trip into southern Germany. Thankfully, my native-born instructors saw fit to expose my fellow students and me to the stark realities of history: the grounds and museum of the former prison camp at Dachau. As I walked across that somber, sterile space outside of Munich, then only 23 years liberated, I was sobered for life knowing that every drop of blood in my veins was of German descent. If these learned, gifted Christian people could do what they had done, so could I. Anyone could. We are eternally called to be our brothers’ and sisters’ and children’s keepers, and therefore to be eternally vigilant and humble as human beings. Even as we dream and create heavenly things.
    Bon voyage!

  • Ann Hite

    Wow and wow. You’re now a poet. Don’t you love to go somewhere that brings this out? I envy you and I haven’t envied in a long time ;). Have a beautifully inspiring trip. Then come home and write. You’ll have a month before we hit the road running.

    • I am making notes and always thinking about writing when I’m not still. Toured Anne Frank’s home tonight and was so moved to see her actual diary and writings.

  • Ann Marie Harootunian

    I love going on a trip with you. The pictures and prose are wonderful.

    • Ann Marie: I just told Tim I wished I hadn’t put some of those snacks you gave us in the backseat of the car. We spend so much time sightseeing and walking I don’t have time to eat!

  • Ann Marie Harootunian

    I found them and was wishing you took them too.