Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Beauty and grace surround us, whether we will it or not. The least we can do is try to be there.
I didn’t really realize, or at least recall, what an intense year 2011 was––uprisings, natural disasters, war, famine. When I stumbled on this collection of “The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011,” I was reminded pretty quickly.
This collection of images, to me, is a reminder of the importance of photography. The photographs here astonish and capture the viewer in a way that words seldom can. They challenge the viewer’s perspective on another person, on an event, on life. They are shocking and provocative. They pose questions or, more importantly, cause the viewer to ask questions.
Of the 45 images, this is my favorite:
It’s not the most technically composed photograph in the bunch (it was tweeted from a camera phone), but this is one of the most incredible images I’ve ever seen. Snuck into this reminder of what a destructive year 2011 really was for many people in the world is this image of provocative hope: Egyptian Muslims in prayer, encircled by a group of Christians, protecting them from attacks during the Arab Spring uprisings.
This is the way people should be. This is the way religion should be. This is the way the world should be.
It is important that photographers’ images cause us to posit questions like: How might we be better? How might we be neighbors? Witnesses? And while it is important that they capture images that illustrate the realities of our world––famine, war, disaster––it is equally as, if not more, important that they––we––fulfill our responsibility to capture hope.
Question: Which of the 45 images stuck out to you the most and why?
I hope you will reflect on what you’ve done with your talent and energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you work to address the world’s deepest inequities, on how well you treat people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.
Thanks to my cousin-in-law, Lorrie, for sending me this great quote––such an inspiration that I had to share.
on cold evenings
with ownership of half her mind-
the other half having flown back to Bohemia-
spread newspapers over the porch floor
so, she said, the garden ants could crawl beneath,
as under a blanket, and keep warm,
and what shall I wish for, for myself,
but, being so struck by the lightning of years,
to be like her with what is left, that loving.
-mary oliver, “in praise of craziness, of a certain kind”
We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.
Question: In what ways can you tell a better story?
It could be any place––the sun rises no differently here than in Accra, Grand Rapids, Washington. But here: every tree, a hint of the Amazon. Every inconsistency in the horizon, the Andes.
Below, the early light barely sheds on––is it water or clouds?––and it seems the world is being born, recreated, below me, beginning only with light. Perhaps this is the case every morning: the entire world begun again from light, brand new.
The sun begins to rise and fill the world with gold, as I am filled with the giddiness of a child on Christmas morning with presents to open. Today is Christmas morning; the world is to open.