American Expressions returned to Memphis after a 5 year hiatus. In 2011 I received the Artist-in-Residence at the Metal Museum's Lawler Foundry. Immediately prior to that I had just completed the construction of the flag and decided that I needed to bring it with me. For the next four months I took the flag around Memphis to different events and got to learn about the people and the city. From this experience I came to understand how much love there is in Memphis. Many people do not know, or care to know what a great community it is, do not what to see past historical scars. But for those that know her, know the people there love her, Memphis knows what love is.
To begin my stay in Memphis, I did what any sensible local would do, got some BBQ. I posted up with the flag out side Ray's on South Main Street. People like to brag about southern hospitality, but it is really on display when almost everyone stops and kindly asks, "What is this about?" in reference to the flag. The folks I met outside Ray's BBQ all had something to say, even if many of them were not from Memphis. Folks from England, Scotland, Germany, New Jersey, New York, all having a ball on holiday in the birthplace of rock-n-roll. Everyone had concerns about our current state of affairs, most of them pointing to the obvious remedies we're all trying to exemplify. The most interesting conversation of the day was with Mr.Larry. A well dressed 70 year old black man, Larry strode by and noticed the slogan on the flag "Black Lives Matter". With a quick look and a sly grin he turn to me and said "I didn't know we didn't matter?" Here is a man who has lived his whole life in Memphis, a historic epicenter of racial tension in America, a man who had first hand experience with a segregate water fountain. He shared a story with me about when he was a child he examined one of these segregated fountains, inquisitively wondering how the source of the water could be coming from the same place, but unsure of the difference in the product at the spigot. He asked his momma and she had to explain to him the ugly nature of the division at an early age. But she also imparted him with the truth, "We all have the same color blood, we're all red on the inside." Larry proceed to tell me about his life as a minister and motivational speaker and how that early lesson shaped his perspective for a lifetime. The work he does now is still rooted in the same message, helping young black men have love and respect for themselves and those around them. "I tell them, "We live in a 'Gotta get mine' society. You gotta get yours, I gotta get mine, it's all on us, no sharing, no helping. What is lost is the most important thing. Love. Love is a shared thing, love is what you have with yourself when you have respect. And when you have respect for others, you can share love. It's not all about you."
Larry has always known that some people in our country don't think his life matters because he's black. But because he understands we're all red on the inside, that we all need love and respect, he's lived his life with dignity and pride despite what other people think. To Larry, love has always matter most.
American Expressions was luckily invited to the North Memphis Block Party for Peace. In its 11th year, the block party is put on by Tennessee State Representative Antonio Parkinson and provides an opportunity for the community to come together for a jobs fair, employment counseling, BBQ, music, marching bands, and of course this guy with a giant American flag. My sincerest thanks to Rep Parkinson for his civil & military service. Keep up the good work, sir!
I would like to take a moment for all the critics out there that charge the black community for not doing enough to help solve societal problems. Everyone I met at the Peace rally was gracious and kind and interested in bettering North Memphis. Their attitudes about our country are no different than anywhere else. They know we need kindness and love and respect and less killing all the way around. They're out here doing it, sometimes in the face of real desperation, helping each other, making their community better with what ever it takes. It is easy to dismiss that which you do not know, but that certainly doesn't make your perspective informed or enlightened and it certainly doesn't make it right. So what are you doing to help make the world a better place? It takes all of us.
I had the pleasure of meeting German, pictured above center, a middle school teacher and athletics coach in the North Memphis area. He explained to me about his career of constant school closings and continuous moving around. It was hard for him to contain his frustration with each story he shared. "I walk in a class room of 14/15 year olds with a 23 year old teacher who is almost in tears. No learning. No behaving. No respect. All the boys checkin out the girls, all the girls cooing at the boys. I say alright! All you young men come with me. So the rest of the year I teach these guys in a separate classroom so we can get some focus." German continues, "I try to get through to them about their choices, about each decision they're making, that one decision can change their life forever. It's hard to get them to think about consequences. Hard to get them to think about their future and that they do have control over their actions." This guy is at the front lines, pushing against tides of poverty, incarceration, gang influence. This is the guy that deserves your appreciation just like the police, just like the solider because he is part of the solution. He's meeting the problem at the source, young people without love and support, getting them to believe in themselves, develop self-respect, and making themselves into better people. Just like Larry, black lives have always mattered, when did they not?
My last stop in Memphis took me back to the origins of my affinity for this place. The National Ornamental Metal Museum is located on the south side of town, perched upon a bluff overlooking a long stretch of western flowing river. Adjacent to the museum are historic Native American Ceremonial Mounds with a plaque citing when the explorer La Salle came for a visit. This ground has always been magical and couldn't be a better place for the Metal Museum because it is a crew of magical people.
I especially want to share my gratitude to Museum Executive Director Carissa Hussong for welcoming my project (unannounced) to this years' Repair Days. I parked the flag right out front of the main gate and got many great interactions. It is always gratifying to be associated with this talented group of people. I am forever proud to be part of this crew and be included in their collection. Great to see and work with you all again.
Nashville. Middle of nowhere, center of everywhere, and growing. Despite the rain, American Expressions had a great turnout at our spot in East Nashville's 5 Points outside the 3 Crow Bar. Many thanks to the various patrons and establishments who eagerly engaged my project. Much gratitude to my host Nicole Moree and Jameson over at Peg Leg Porker, for the impromptu invite!
The atmosphere in East Nashville has the burgeoning hipster coolness feel, but with a dirty south style. It is a community that has little excessive housing because so many people are moving to the area. Right off the bat, I met some wonderful people at 3 Crow who provided quick promotion among the local populace. As the rain dried up going into the evening, the participation picked up. I had a great conversation with a couple on tour from Australia, who collectively had the best addition to the flag, "This Trump Shall Pass". By and large the responses to the project were very positive and successful. I had a nice chat with a couple former Marines, as well as some active duty fellas. I am always impressed with their reactions to the project. Maybe they would rather not enter into a difficult patriotic conversation, but they know that what I am doing is exactly what they're fighting for. It makes me wonder if they think what I am doing is brave. It is not a comparison to what they do, I am not risking my life aside from texting drivers, but standing up for what their fighting for I think provides a small connection.
The best interactions of the weekend came from two retired white ladies. No, I'm not talking about you mom, but it was great to see you and Barb in Nashville! The Sunday edition of American Expressions in East Nashville was framed by two distinct encounters, exactly polar opposites.
Let me take a moment to thank East Nasty for providing an amazing evening in several of your local establishments. This is the preamble to a profoundly bad hangover and subsequent day of on-the-job recovery. I left the flag and markers out all night as I often do, giving occasion to more, less supervised expressions. Fortunately everything was in order when I moseyed upon the flag, shinning in the Sunday morning sun. Standing at the far end was an older white woman with an expression on her face which looked about as bad as I felt. Scowling, mumbling, gritting her teeth as she read over the expressions on the flag, I weighed my level of involvement with her given my walking-dead cognition. Hard to deal with haters so early in the morning, but them aggravated old white women aren't going to get set straight by themselves, so I had to get to work.
"Obama is a cocksucker. That dumb fucker hasn't done one good thing for us. What kind of idiot would drive around praising that dumb fucker," she hissed. "Hi! That's me! I'm the guy. Here's my card," as I moved closer to her. "What?! You?! Well, you don't have any damn sense. That motherfucker hasn't done one good thing." She has been exclaiming loudly now for a couple minutes as I intently listen. I countered, "Aren't you happy that Obama dropped bombs on Islamic people with drones, killing our enemies?" She responded, "Yeah, well, they should all be killed." I said, "Well I'm not happy with Obama either for that exact reason. He should not be dropping bombs on innocent people, especially from drones." Now she was getting really wound up and starting to affect my head. Before I moved away from her I said, "You know what they say about American? Love it or leave it." She erupts, "I'm not leaving!! You need to leave!! I'm not leave my country! You get out and you take that cocksucker Obama with you!!" She continued to rant on at a high level of distain as people gathered to see what all the shouting was about. I turned away from her to engage another patron and she got the hint and took her nasty attitude on up the block. She certainly made an impression on the black gentleman from Birmingham who I was talking to. He asked, "Why is she so mad?" I replied, "I don't know." Ok, we both knew that anyone who is that angry without real justification is simply acting out the inbred aggression that is racial hatred. Strangely our society accepts this bad behavior, but in this moment it seemed different. That woman was alone. No body siding with her, chiming in. No mob. No dogs. No riot batons. Just some angry old bitch in a crowd of people acting insane because she was cursed with racism and still lets it live in her heart.
After shaking off the confrontational start to the day, things picked up in 5 Points with people coming out for NFL games. This made the sidewalk a little congested as people got caught by the writings on the flag. Many folks were very supportive and most all expressed positive things. This is when the universe made up for the hard start to the day.
A group of people slowly passed the flag, looking, reading. Flanked by daughter and son-in-law, a smiling 80 year old woman gazed intently at the writings as she walked. I popped off with my usual pitch about freedom and compassion as she approached. She stopped right in front of me taking in all the expressions when she read aloud, "Give a stranger a hug!" What can you do when you're prompted by a mom? I stepped up and gave her a hug to which she replied, "I was hoping you were going to do that!" It was a lovely moment that left everyone smiling. Love>Hate...it's just not that hard people.
The project has passed the half way point with just six weeks left until election day. It seems that the oncoming election is squeezing the greater populaces' psyche. Those that are consumed by the oncoming election continue their polarization and the rest of the country is put out by just the thought politics. Then we have the ongoing abuse of force by law-enforcement that continues to enflame red-lining racial tensions. Some people I meet simply ignore the greater problems while others cannot help but be struck by the ever growing tension. Life will go on, but will it get better or worse? Which direction we go is up to us.
We all know the hotbed that has been St.Louis over the last two years. It is one of several racial fault lines that are under stress in our country today. The undercurrent is out of sight as things have calmed, but that is not to say there still wasn't a strange tension. My stay in St.Louis was greatly aided my friends and fellow artists Noah & Allison & Bryce. These wonderful people hosted me and arranged great opportunities to display the flag getting a diversity of interaction. My sincerest thanks for all your efforts and hospitality!
My first stop was FloValley Community College where the Dean of Arts & Sciences quickly arranged I be put in the center of campus where students couldn't miss out interacting. FloValley is on the north side of St.Louis and the majority of students are African-American. In speaking with the Dean, she was very appreciative that this project was available to her students, acknowledging the challenge to thinking and critically responding is beneficial to young minds. Over the next 6 hours, Noah and I gathered the perspective of these young people which had several impressive observations about our country. There much adulation for Black Lives Matter, but even more attention was given to Love being the path. Early on there was a sly addition to flag, "I sold my virginity for $100", I believe it to be a genuine expression. If this is the answer to my inquiry "How do you feel about America?" then, yes, we all need to pay more attention to black lives and stop with the bullshit push back. Stop with demanding a comparison. Stop insisting that you know because you don't know what people are facing. It has become kind of a litmus test when people see BLM on the flag and how they react because there is only one answer. YES. BLACK LIVES MATTER because we as a society have done everything we can to maintain the divide. Why is it so difficult for people to have a heart & a brain? What's the problem with being compassionate? What are you afraid of America?
The next day promised a far different demographic as the flag was posted up in "The Loop" in the center of St.Louis adjacent to Washington University. I had the pleasure of meeting Jodie Lloyd who works for the city and arranged for me to post up in a prime parking lot. She explained to me at length about the history of St.Louis, its 90 different municipalities, and how difficult is has become to change anything. I got the impression that many of the municipalities use fines and fees upon people to fund their coffers. She explained that you could get 3 different vehicle citations in the span of a mile and there's nothing you can do about it. Everybody wants their piece and it has intentionally or otherwise become a method of trapping the poor in poverty. Can you imagine hearing "You have a taillight out" 3 times in one trip home? I do not think this is an exaggeration and most likely a reality for many people of color in the St.Louis area. What's fair about that? When confronted, the police point to the municipality cash flow as a means of justification, that they're simply doing their job, keeping the poor, poor. We can do better and Jodie Lloyd is out there doing it for us. Thank you for your service!
In a distinct contrast to the students at FloValley, two design classes from Washington University took a moment to gather inspiration before getting up on the flag. I asked if they needed a shot of bourbon? I asked if they had ever been to jail? I asked of they were alive? My sarcasm was blithely acknowledged. Unlike their counterparts at the community college, these students had very little to say about America. And why would they? The group was made up of top-notch students from all over the United States, attending a prestigious university at their parents expense. Perhaps they were paralyzed by the process of coming up with something profound when they have no experience to draw upon. They feel no responsibility to be aware of what's going on in the world. (Full disclosure: I didn't give much thought to anything except myself when I was 20, too) But the contrast can't be more distinct, one group of students work two jobs, take classes, live with the daily threat of violence, and still pushes themselves to be something more, to get better opportunities. The other group starts at the top, knowing very little about life outside that shinning city on the hill. This became very apparent when a WashU student sprayed "Yezee 2020" in big letters on the front of the flag. (Yezee 2020 is Kanye West's bid for the Presidency) I asked her if she knew what she was doing, if she understood the power of her words, the power of art, and her responsibility as an artist? She admitted she was being glib, and just having fun, but I couldn't let her off the hook. (Sorry kid, full frontal real life coming at you) I did my best to explain the power artists have when they work with charged icons, citing Andre Serrano, Dread Scott, and Carolee Schneemann. I charged these students to take their work and their words seriously, emploring them to be aware of their responsibility for their actions as humans and creative forces. Blank stares. Good luck, kids- life isn't fair, hopefully you're getting a chance to find out.
My final day in St.Louis was at the City Museum. An amazing place where many talented sculptors work, it is a wonderland and a treasure to the community. Noah worked at the City and when arrangements were made to host the flag, they put me right out front with hundreds of people walking by. At this point, the flag is as much something to see as it is to write on, so I was perfectly fine letting the flag ride as Noah and I toured the museum. Lots of people made additional contributions while we were there, but none so interesting until the end. I had a conversation with the two young men pictured above left. These guys are what America is afraid of. Young, desperate, with limited tutelage beyond the streets. As we talked, another couple was watching, listening, while Noah recruited their participation. These boys asked me if I knew what it was like to live with daily violence. "Does the liquor store in the white neighborhood get shot up every night? You don't know what it like, you don't know." I could only keep his eye contact and encourage him to keep taking, keep letting it out. He continued, "You see my hair? I am a king! This is what kings wear in Africa." I replied, "Well ya gotta respect a king, right?" He grabbed my hand in solidarity, both knowing that's all he wanted, respect. At that moment, his friend finished his tag and started shouting "Fuck Trump" which completely scared the white couple Noah was talking to. The gentleman was about to write when the shouting started, but then quickly walked away, leaving his wife scowling at the boys. I asked if she wanted to share how she felt about America. Surprisingly, she grabbed a pen, crossed out the word "FUCK" and wrote "VOTE" next to "TRUMP". As I went to thank her, she threw the marker at me in disgust and quickly disappeared to her waiting husband.
Chicago. What a hot mess. And I'm not even talking about the parking. As a professional truck driver, I had to again apply my wizard business to navigating the city with a vehicle that's really not permitted to be there. I'm happy to say I did not have any metal on metal altercations, but it was close. I was fortunate to get a couple good days talking to local people on the street, but missed out on the necessary parking to facilitate the last day. Nonetheless, I had great interactions and discussions about America, Chicago, and privilege. Many thanks to my brother Eric Fuertes for sharing my project with his class. Great gratitude goes to Mr. Andy Jessup for hosting me in the city and traversing the totality of creative exploration and critique of this project.
American Expressions got going early and was rewarded with great parking in Wicker Park, an uber hip part of the city. The big city life brings diversity as well as aloofness with both on display in Wicker Park. My hustle in getting people to participate has become more nuanced, more aware that city dwellers know what's going on around them and adjusting my approach requires reading their potential attention. One Hispanic couple with a child stroller slowly walked by looking intently. When I approached, they quickly moved to hasten away, but I caught them and convinced them to share their thoughts about America on the flag. As they deliberated what they together thought should go on the flag, I turned my attention to other patrons. When I turned back around they were walking away having simply written "Hate" on the flag. The message about "the wall" must be getting through. Is it not surprising that when asked to share their feelings about America, immigrants cautiously express honestly what is being directed towards them? That takes some courage and a lot of bravery. I wonder where our bravery has gone when our nation openly promotes distain.
As this project evolves, there is a distinct dynamic between urban and rural America. Maybe city dwellers are more exposed to the craziness of close packed humanity that makes them acutely aware of the actions around them. Or perhaps rural communities are more tightly knit where obscure thinking can lead to being ostracized, therefore a graffitied American flag is "out of bounds"(ask Colin K.) Regardless of the causes, the dynamic between those who have to live in peace with one another despite their differences and those who exist in homogenous cultures within our country is growing more polarized. We might look at race, class, and wealth as the terms of our national fracturing, but in my experience with American Expressions, it is the proximity to those that are different from you which divides our diverse nation. We're becoming a grilled cheese sandwich with nicely brown outsides and creamy, white American cheese in the middle.(and who doesn't like grilled cheese, amirite?) My time in Chicago gave me interactions with tourists from all over our nation and the world (btw the French wish us luck). Strangely enough, it was the people from rural America who are most put out by sharing their feelings on the flag when they encounter it in the city. The disgusting facial expressions and hurrying along of family members only makes me image what fear is paralyzing them so much they cannot inquire about the nature of what they're seeing. It is as if they're reciting tales of Sodom & Gomormah, witnessing the violation with their own eyes. Where is all this fear coming from? Is it the cracking shell of their understanding about their country, that it is not here just for them? Or is it long held misconceptions about stereotypes that have calcified into "beliefs" that renders them unable to grant respect to that which is unfamiliar and unknown. We live in a free society, meaning we all respect one another's freedom, but that concept seems amiss among those that live in geographic and patriotic seclusion.
Chicago gave several interactions with many beautiful people. Much of what I do is subtly convince folks to come out of their head space and interact with me and my project. More times than not, people don't want to be bothered, which I completely respect. This has inspired me to develop differing approaches to connect and engage with people. The people pictured above were all brought into the project without words. I see them slyly notice the flag, while I sit to the side, and then I point the marker at them when they look at me, then point it at the flag. It is so effective, the guy pictured in the middle, we didn't even exchange words. The purpose of my artwork is to engage people with my concept, free speech primarily, but it also examines the awareness and willingness of people to engage in that which might be mysterious to them in their daily life. Often I have people ask "Who are you working for?" and they don't normally believe I am doing it for myself & the betterment of our society. So I have found that when I speak less and use gestures, I reduce the weight of the intrusion into their brain space, opening up the opportunity for them to think about what I am presenting. This is the sale. Sure, getting someone's attention and getting them to part with their money are two different things. But when you're selling an idea, one that might be controversial, you're asking people to open their thoughts to your guidance and influence. I am proud of this tour because I am bringing creativity into the streets and challenging everyone's thoughts about our country. If you make a controversial piece of art, but only art lovers go to see it in the gallery, is it really controversial? Are you really confronting those who think differently than you? I think I am, and to do so successfully bridge our differences takes awareness, compassion, and sensitivity to you fellow human beings.
Milwaukee is a mysterious town. It is different from other cities in many regards: population origins, historic manufacturing, unionized, and generally liberally minded. This assessment omits the current reputation of Milwaukee as America's "most segregated city." When I was posting up with the flag, it was easy to see the love Milwaukeens have for their country and fellow Americans, but when the flag was left alone, a different, uglier attitude was expressed. Many thanks to my homie, Katerina, for the gracious accommodations in your lovely town.
The time has come to understand what is really being said when people write certain things on the flag. But first, let me give you a completely amateur observational demographic breakdown of project participation. Overall I suspect I get 3 people out of 10 engage me when I inquire "How they feel about America?" Of those participating the majority are women, and especially minority women. Minorities of both genders participate at a higher percentage than the majority overall. The least willing to participate in American Expressions is the white, adult, male, who most often completely ignore my invitation to participate. When I do get this demographic to join in, there is a good chance they will write "Don't Tread on Me." (This occurred repeatedly in Milwaukee) Other responses by this demographic are often political endorsement for a certain orange-tinted real-estate mogul. By my estimation the WAM group has a 50% defensive response when he expresses his thoughts about America. What has got the Man so down about America?
Why does the top of the socioeconomic pyramid, of the entire world, feel so threatened? Is this repressed guilt for the sins of our fathers, or does it go deeper? Could this be a new neurosis caused by the abundant affluence of a mutating middle class? Or is it a product of our capitalistic consumer society where boys flake about throughout youth and don't have the cultural rituals that teach and validate adulthood, what it means to "be a man"? Ultimately when someone says "Don't tread on me," it comes from a place of fear, a deep seeded insecurity that exposes the causations of toxic masculinity. They want to tell everyone to "FUCK OFF" because "I'M THE MAN" (see the archetype of male characters in movies & video games) By default, they were born into the top of the pyramid and knowing no other position have little ability for change (full disclosure: I am born into the same pyramid peak). The expansion of constitutional fulfillment for all people comes at a cost to them, which is then interpreted as a threat and reacted to with some sort of rationalization: "I pulled myself up by my bootstraps" or "I wasn't given anything" or "If I was in charge..." We proclaim we are the home of the brave, but somewhere in the hearts of these true blooded, white, American males bravery has been contorted. Bravery has decayed into an embroidered logo on a camouflage hat, something we put on for everybody to see, something we wear to cover our fear that we are not brave. We are scared. We hide behind the notions of knowing "what is right" and do so at the expense of others' respect and liberty. We are scared. We act as if the 2nd Amendment is more important than all the rest, not because of tyranny of a rampant government, but because we are afraid of the unforeseen, unprepared future (which we have zero control over). We are scared because we can't handle the truth. The truth is we only have a relationship with hate, and do not know love. Sure, "I love my family, and I love my God, and I love my country, but after that! fuck all y'all" You fear being tread on because you cannot grasp the notion that we're all in this together. Who do you think you are? Writing shit like this on our flag?
Seeing this we're compelled to examine the 1st Amendment right to express this nastiness openly. In doing so we default to tolerance, a shrug, and invoke our debilitating "It is what it is" mentality. Fuck that. Tolerance is the skin of hatred and we can no longer afford to continually allow our society to be consumed by regressive thinking. We want to be great? We proclaim ourselves as being the best country in the world? We bask in uber machismo of bravery, yet we still harbor an insecure fear of being powerlessness and that fear is in distinct contrast to our social programming as adult, white & male. Wanna be a man? Be brave, stand up against injustice. Be brave, use your commonsense. Be brave, lead with trust instead of suspicion. Be brave enough to show respect to everyone, all people. Because when you don't, you simply reek of fear and privilege. You are the MAN. Be brave and act like it.
American Expressions rolled into my family farm in Greentown, IN for a week long stay. It has been a couple years since I'd been here and my father had a few chores for me. Shocking. It has been a nice retreat from the road, very quite and allowing me the opportunity to catch up on design work for future projects. A pleasant stay, but nonetheless a reminder of why I live elsewhere. I did have the chance to get the feelings of some Indianapolis residents on the flag at the Cheerce Festival in Fountain Square. Many thanks to my long time friends Gwynn & Tony for taking time to catch up with me and promote my project.
The Cheerce Festival is in its second year and they have high hopes of being an up and coming event. I would say the future is bring for them, but the experience was lack luster for the flag. It is always the old adage, location, location, location. The event planners had the vendors 2 blocks away from the venue, despite assuring me that people would be coming by. It didn't take long for the rest of the vendors to relocate to the action, but with truck & trailer, I was planted. I met a few people and had some good interactions, but I became a hobo depot with every urban outdoorsman looking for a handout. I must have had a dozen "veterans" see my flag and express their love for our..."hey can you spare some change?" Normally on the tour I have dispersed a handful of coins from my coffee can, but the word was out AND I was parked right outside the liquor store. Talk about local economy. Once I started seeing & hearing the same hustle, from THE SAME DRUNK, I knew it was time to go. I had spent 8 hours working this crowd to get a few expressions, many extolling the virtues of thug life. Not every stop is going to be amazing. I must remember and rely on my dedication to this work and seeing it through.
This stop in the Hooiser state has really given me time to reflect on what I am doing. Something about coming back to where you came from and seeing people you've always known deeply churns my psyche. I cannot express enough how much I appreciate the support of my friends. Mr.Marsh, The Gerry Masse family, Gwynn & Tony, each of them understand the risk I am taking, each of them shared their admiration, and they know it isn't easy. Thanks to all of you because it keeps me going. As the tour rolls on, your support helps keep me charged to see this work through. This homecoming has brought me to my foundation.
This is my dad, Lindan B. Hill. This guy has been the main influence in my life since the beginning. He could have stamped me with the same provincial Greentown perspective, but he didn't. When we examine where we come from, what experiences we had, the shaping and conditioning of 'how to live a life', we get to see the components of personality. My youthful experience was forged by two forces: our family work ethic & my Dad's liberating spiritual journey. Fortunately when I was growing up my Dad decided to question authority, I mean the BIG authority, as in, "what is the function of God, religion, & spirituality in our lives?" This meant we left the little Christian church down the road and started driving an hour to attend a Unitarian church in Indianapolis. This was an eye opening experience for me because it was mid 1980s and in this congregation were homosexual couples, worshiping God no less. Mind you, the tiny enclave we come from still has issues with individuals rights to love who they wish. My Dad broadened our family's perspective because of his own search for meaning in life and in doing so expanded my understanding at an early age. But, as it were, the organized religion of the Unitarians was still a mouthpiece for someone else's interpretation of what living was about. Dad's continued research informed our family through the written works of Carl Sagan, Carl Jung, and most importantly the writing of Joseph Campbell. I clearly remember seeing the cover and reading his "A Hero with a Thousand Faces" because it had Luke Skywalker next to a Mayan hieroglyph. Through my Dad's spiritual journey, I developed my own meaning of life and purpose, which is a very big portion of why I'm doing what I do today.
"The privilege of a lifetime is getting to be who you are". Thanks Dad.