Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lament for D-Town

Buddhic enlightenment aside, I wanted to give a quick shout out to my dear friend and fellow Lutheran Joelle Hathaway, whose blog, Musings on Theology and the Arts, always offers provocative commentary on theological aesthetics, particularly regarding architecture. Her most recent post discusses a recent photography project, "the Ruins of Detroit," by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, a series of haunting pieces that explore the implications of the urban decay of a once proud driver of industry. Joelle notes:

At the turn of the 20th century, the automobile and its production put Detroit on the map; making it the fourth largest US city during the 1950′s. Soon, however, “the logic that created the city also destroyed it.” Cheap, convenient, and autonomous transportation lead to the creation of the suburbs (among other social factors), draining the city of its population. Detroit’s economic rise helped shape the social fabric of modern society, yet the only thing left to witness to this moment in history are the spaces and buildings left behind.

This collection strikes a strong cord with me – What is a Christian response to the Western desire for autonomy? Are miles and miles of strip malls and parking lots conducive to building true community? How can spaces such as these witness to the ephemeral quality of history and the inability of humans to build for ourselves a “paradise”?

As I look out from my hotel balcony at a paradise of my own, my heart aches for the town where my great-grandmother arrived from Macedonia with my grandfather, who labored his whole life there to make a better life for my father, who has strived his whole life so that my family could leave the country at will to sit on a beach in Thailand in peace and comfort. I'll be sporting my Tigers cap around Phuket today in homage to the Motor City, and as a prayer that these labors will not end in a life of ruin, for Detroit, or for the Nickoloffs. Thanks Joelle!

(Check out the inscription: "And thou shall say God did it." Ponder...)

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