Dear Refraction Readers,
Ron Kelsey was my intern during September 11th, 2001. He was an art student from Washburn University, also serving on ROTC.
Recently, Ron contacted me from Iraq, where he is stationed and is training to be a chaplain. The photo above was taken while he sat reading my Refractions book in front of Saddam Hussein's former palace in Baghdad, Iraq. Here's a recent dispatch from him, sent last night, on the eve of Easter.
In today's moment of grief, I want to thank you for writing your essay "Operation Homecoming: Epistles of Injury." Yesterday, the 10th MTN DIV lost five Soldiers under its command to an IED. Today their families and the Soldiers of the 10th MTN DIV remain captured by the weight and burden of tragedy. On this day before Easter, I found hope in the following words from "Refractions:"
"Art should let 'the other ones loose' from the bondage of decay, apathy, and loss. To the extent we are able to do that, we will see a new language of expression that is not self-centered but self-giving and generous. Yes, I believe that art can, and ought to, exist apart from wars. But the only place in history where this has been the case --- a place called Eden, where a poet named Adam dwelled --- is today hidden inaccessibly beneath the rubble of Iraq...
In Jesus' Realism of 'such things must happen,' he was also reminding us that our sacrifice, either for just or unjust reasons, would not be the last word. Our efforts, however noble, will not end the cause for injustice. Nevertheless, we are all called to self-sacrifice. None is exempt, not even a pacifist thirteen-year-old secluded as far away from Iraq as humanly possible. And Jesus knows, firsthand, what it means to die an unjust death without picking up a stone or spear. Instead, he continues to breathe life into us in our funerary songs...
Our path back to Eden is blocked, but there is a way in to the feast of the selfless. Only the words of forgiveness, utterly stripped down to the core of faith, can echo the timeless, or the timeful, promise of an Easter morning. That is our true homecoming.
The realities of these words and the promise of Easter have become real to me in the shadows of heroic sacrifice. In the light of Easter's generosity, I wrote the following words in the essay "Inspiration beyond the Finished Work:"
"As Jesus spoke His last words on the cross, 'it is finished', it did not seem like a proper ending for his narrative or life's work. Could it be that His words were filled with a sense of longing, visions that went beyond His death on the cross, hope that would restore humanity, a peace beyond human measure? As the story unfolds, beauty is revealed through brokenness, upon a cross woven easel of man's own design, creating the possibility for a sequence of events beyond the grave. A saving grace remains beyond grief and sorrow, awaiting the resurrection of God's own design.
In consideration of Christ's generosity, I realize that there remains a greater calling in life. It is not enough to seek out audiences requesting that they make further sacrifices. Rather, as artists we should be the lens by which they see the value and beauty of the sacrifices they already make. As a reflection of the Creator upon the created, every artist has the potential to become a curator of the message of truth, which serves to resurrect the underlying hope within the audience of mankind."
In the Shadows of Generosity,
Ron is writing a series of essays and painting to prepare for an exhibit that will benefit International Arts Movement. I will keep you updated on that. As we meditate on the hope that this day brings, let's remember those who grieve because "our path to Eden is blocked."
- Easter morning, 2009