Lessons From A City
One of my favorite things to do when I travel is walk the streets of whatever city or town I visit. Walking a city is the best way to get a feel for it, gather its energy, and find surprising things.
When I lived in downtown Chicago for several years, I would spend hours walking (not in winter), taking in the city's sights, sounds, and smells.
I discovered fantastic art galleries, restaurants, out-of-the-way places, and shortcuts to all my favorite haunts through grim alleys that opened up to wonder.
This past summer, I spent nearly two weeks in Edinburgh and walked daily for miles through the city streets. It was magical. Every day I was there, I discovered something new and exciting.
Walking through a city, you discover many things that aren't on the regular tourist maps. You see the city itself in all of its beautiful ugliness.
Nevena Pascaleva is an author, photographer, and artist living in Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city, with ideas about discovering beauty in unlikely places.
She recently wrote an article in Medium (a site for authors and creators you should check out) entitled "What Does Your Dream Place Look Like?"
Essentially, Pascaleva assumes that in the most picturesque locales worldwide, where tourists flock and take lovely photos of landmarks, nature, and architectural wonders, there is a side to those locations that no one sees.
To her point, she took photos in her beloved city of Thessaloniki, a city full of ancient wonders, beautiful landscapes, and the like that attract thousands of tourists every year.
Only Pascaleva took photos of abandoned buildings, dirty alleyways, homeless people sleeping on the street, garbage strewn in empty lots, etc.
She claimed the tragic beauty in these photos was just as artistic and wondrous as all the photos she could have taken of the traditional "photo spots."
Then she had this to say:
Because cities reflect our own personalities and this is what we are, too. We, human beings, are full of splendor and repulsiveness. Full of cleanliness and dirt. Full of happiness and suffering. Full of eternity and mortality.
I love that so much. Pascaleva's words encapsulate the feeling I get when I walk around a city exploring. So much of life is like this, isn't it? We encounter beauty and ugliness; in the end, we have the chance to see the wonder in all of it.
If we want to break this down into a theological reflection, when we are willing and open to the world around us, we can experience the eternal rhythm of dying and rising everywhere.
We see signs and symbols of the power and potential of Resurrection in everything and in us.
May we find that openness daily as we journey through our lives. May we find the courage to see that we are full of eternity and mortality all at once.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.