Poverty of a different sort

Poverty of a different sort July 23, 2013

Never once when I was growing up, not even when I was a young adult, did I ever think about, or dare to imagine that I would come to Paris one day.

A day trip to Atlanta, only eighty miles up the road, seemed exotic to me then. We never made trips to Atlanta to go shopping the way some of my classmates did.

I’d never heard of places called Portland or Seattle or Jardin du Luxembourg.

Although I was a reader, even way back then. I didn’t think about writing, or art, or the artists and writers who did the work of creating.

Poverty, I’ve since learned, comes in several manifestations.

The worst sort of poverty is widely regarded as the one that leaves a person starving to death in a world full of abundance.

Having never gone hungry a day in my life, I can only imagine the sheer despair caused by such hunger.

But I have known the despair of a child whose ability to imagine is interrupted by the death of a parent.

Ask any grieving adult, reading becomes nearly impossible during times of despair. Too hard to concentrate, to think clearly, to imagine a different world.

Sitting inside the sanctuary of Notre Dame, Tim and I spoke quietly about the different sorts of poverty that people experience, due to tragedy and due to abundance. It’s easy, Tim said, to assign a certain level of holiness to those who have gone before us, to those who imagined up places like the great cathedrals.

People from all nations will stand in long lines and pay good money to witness creativity, and yet, pay little regard to the Creator behind all that beauty.

I wonder, does God ever despair over us?

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  • AFRoger

    After the enormous density and weightiness of Romanesque architecture, a style that seemed befitting of heavy handed imperial authority following the golden ages of Greece and Rome, the soaring style of the Gothic churches must have seemed like weightlessness of space to people who could not conceive of such a thing, let alone experience it. It is in many ways bare bones architecture. The skeleton and sinews are exposed. We live inside the structure rather than under it. Wars had persisted, empires still existed, and the tragedy of great plagues had devastated great populations. But somewhere amid the tormoil, light had returned. When down, the only place one can look is up. The Gothic arches compel and invite us to do that.
    Notre Dame was the first place I visited in Europe after an overnight Air France flight in June 1968. Not exactly Nebraska. I distinctly recall the day, the light coming in through the rose window. And the flag attached to the highest ridge on the roof. Notre Dame has no spires on its two towers. It is unfinished. If it had been, I think the Vietnamese ex-pat who’d scaled that extremely steep roof to plant a flag in protest of a seemingly endless war would have somehow scaled the spire. Or died trying. He, too, had needed to soar in a way that made sense to him.
    On that day in 1968, my friend Wes was newly gone, KIA in April. MLK was gone. KIA in April. RFK was gone. KIA in June. Our nation and the parties of Vietnam had agreed at the same time, in principal, to begin peace talks, while the war would linger for another seven years. There is indeed, in life, a time and a need to soar. And may we always return to earth with light to share.

  • pastordt

    I wonder that, too, Karen. This is a lovely post – in every way. Love the photos, love the thoughts. Thank you for both.