Thursday, December 30, 2010

Universal Acceptance

At the Art Institute of Chicago, digital Photography by Meera Rao

Newly opened in May 1893 as the Permanent Art Palace, now known as the Art Institute Chicago was used as the World's Congress during 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The World Parliament of Religions opened on September 11, 1893 with Swami Vivekananda from India giving one of the inaugural addresses in the Hall of Columbus. In the next two weeks Swami Vivekananda drew the largest crowds of the World Congress 's meetings.  108 years later, on September 11, 2001 another key historical moment shook the world.  Jitish Kallat's Public Notice 3  a site specific installation at the Art Institute of Chicago connects the two historical events.  The Art Institute web site explains : With Public Notice 3, Kallat converts Vivekananda’s text to LED displays on each of the 118 risers of the historic Woman’s Board Grand Staircase of the Art Institute of Chicago, adjacent to the site of Vivekananda’s original address. Drawing attention to the great chasm between this speech of tolerance and the very different events of September 11, 2001, the text of the speech will be displayed in the colors of the United States’ Department of Homeland Security alert system. Opening on September 11, Public Notice 3 explores the possibility of revisiting the historical speech as a site of contemplation, symbolically refracting it with threat codes devised by a government to deal with this terror-infected era of religious factionalism and fanaticism. 

I shot the photograph above showing the staircase as I walked away  from it towards the Asian Gallaries -- I loved how the words and statues of Buddha reflected on the glass doors.  Below is Swami Vivekananda's speech that Jitish Kallat converted to LED display on the stairs: 

Sisters and Brothers of America,
It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.
My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: "As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."
The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: "Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me." Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

I pray for  peace, tolerance and universal acceptance in 2011 and beyond.  Happy New Year !

11 comments:

Kathy Staicer said...

I wish for the same.

B said...

happy holidays to u too meera.A wonderful way to end the year

Anudeepa Kadiresan said...

wow,very nice post Meera.
have a wonderful and creative new year.

meera said...

Thank you, Kathy, B and Anudeepa. I was really moved by the exhibit. have a wonderful art-filled year :)

Crystal Cook said...

What a moving and thought provoking post meera. And that photo is so powerful. Just wow. I hope you have a great New year friend. :)

meera said...

Crystal, Thank you :) and wish you a year full of fantastic art!

Thaikaden said...

Wish U A Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Fernando Santos (Chana) said...

Espectacular...
Cumprimentos

meera said...

@Thaikaden, Fernando Santos --Thank you very much :) And I wish you a wonderful 2011. Thank you very much for your comments, I really appreciate your feed back.

Hema P. said...

What beautiful, if surreal, composition, Meera! I can't thank you enough for including Swami Vivekananda's words here -- I couldn't have thought of a better way to start my new year myself!

Happy New Year!

meera said...

Thanks Hema! and a wishing your wonderful writing days ahead!

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