Monday, January 21, 2008

Celebrating Dr. King

January 21, 2008, 8:30 a.m.

The Place to Be

The digitized "Information Age," or "cyberspace," has had a significant impact on virtually every aspect of our lives -- from courtship to commerce, from architecture to medicine, from feature films to football.

Among other things, it has enabled the separation of mind from body.

It used to be that in order to be somewhere, in order to witness an event or beautiful scenery, to hear a lecture or a concert, it was necessary to relocate both your mind and body to a location with latitude and longitude coordinates on Planet Earth.

Today, thanks to the old technologies of telephone, radio, television, and cable channels such as C-SPAN, CNN or ESPN -- not to mention CDs, DVDs, VCRs and TiVo -- and the miraculous new resources of the Web and Internet, it is possible to sit in bed in your pajamas and move your mind through the Hubble telescope into the heavens, or under the oceans, or watch through one of the thousands of "Web cams" positioned in cities and zoos and other places around the world.

It is, in short, possible to "be there" without really being there; to move your mind without moving your body.

And because the former can be done with little to no preparation, in something between a tenth of a second and a minute, and even while multi-tasking, we don't have to give it a lot of thought.

What we do still need to think about and plan for, however, is where to put our bodies. Moving our body may require a shower and change of clothes, or even packing a bag, holding the newspapers, and gathering the strength to deal with our increasingly disfunctional airline industry. Where do we want to be "in person"? At any given moment where is "the place to be"?

All of which is simply a long-winded introduction to some comments about where was "the place to be" in Iowa City last evening.

In my opinion it was what the organizers called "The Consultation of Religious Communities Celebration of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," held this year at the new First Christian Church off North Dubuque. Some 10 or more churches were represented in one way or another.

I didn't do a realtime blog of the event, John Deeth style, and I won't mention everything on the program now. But it included a Choral Reading by a group of young people of words from Dr. King that was very well scripted and performed. Professional writer Marilynne Robinson had written, and read, a beautiful piece about the midwest's near 175-year legitimate claim to the practice of racial equality. Former Mayor Ross Wilburn contrasted Ms. Robinson's "Where We Have Come From" with his own "Where we Are Now." The music was also first rate, from the operatic voice of Barbara Buddin, to the "Voices of Experience," to the appropriately named "Gospel Explosion Ministry" gospel singers who got those who filled the church on their feet, clapping time, and swaying (even if our efforts in that regard always bring to my mind the portrayal of Steve Martin's character, Navin Johnson, trying to "get" rhythm in the movie "The Jerk"). We closed with everyone singing "We Shall Overcome" along with the extremely talented Disciple Strings group that opened the evening.

I took some pictures, but didn't get everything (and of course nothing was deliberately not photographed). You can see the album on my Picasa Web site.

And Kathryn Fiegan's "'Renew his words and his memory;' Service celebrates King's work," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 21, 2008, p. A1 captures much of the experience of being there in words.

But words, and even pictures worth a thousand, can't tell it all. As the saying goes, "I guess you had to be there" -- in part because, in this digitized, Information Age, it was "The Place to Be" with your body, in Iowa City, last evening.

If you missed it, make a note to catch this annual event next year.

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