'Bold Lines' by Jim Davis-Rosenthal
Bold Lines, Jim Davis-Rosenthal, 1999.

 

Signs
by Jim Davis-Rosenthal

 

As I view pictures of the Leonid Meteor showers over the Arabian desert, I'm moved by their beauty, glad that though accidents of geography and cloud cover prevented me from seeing them in person, the modern technology of photography and the internet allows me to share in the experience. Earlier peoples, we are told, always saw signs in the unfolding sky. Many interpreted them with fear or with prophesies foretelling doom, good fortune, fate.

We, modern peoples that we are, also see signs, but rarely in our skies. Instead they are in black boxes, cockpit voice recorders, fragments of fallen machines and oil slicks upon stormy oceans. We see signs, react, mourn. We create mythologies and conspiracy tales. We change our reservations.

I can't imagine the experience of those who died in the Egyptian Air Flight 990. I can only guess at the things they said, the prayers they made, and the wishes they left to the air. I don't know what happened. But I do know one thing, and that is the simple fact that many faiths expect a final affirmation when a person expects to die. A simple statement made as a last act before dying.

In Judaism, a religious Jew would recite the Sh'ma before dying, a central prayer affirming the unity of all things. As a Jew, I hope no one would ever dare to assert that the recitation of the Sh'ma, done faithfully, implied foul play. But when ignorance and prejudice come together, accusations fly like meteors, light streaks across a burdened sky, heavy with signs. If an Irish man had affirmed his faith in a similar crisis, would we blame the IRA?

In the name of tolerance maybe we should spend some time with these signs before we run to the streets speaking words of anger, shattering windows and demanding blood. After all, it is not also a sin to speak ill of the dead?

 

 

Text © 2000 by Jim Davis-Rosenthal


Original Graphic Image, "Bold Lines" © 2000 by Jim Davis-Rosenthal


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