Thursday, March 17, 2011

Graffito, Graffiti--What Little Scratches Can Do

When the words "mene mene tekel upharsin" mysteriously appeared on the wall of a banquet hall where a drunken King Belshazzar of Babylon was feasting with his drunken friends, only the prophet Daniel could interpret them. (They were in Aramaic, not Persian). They foretold, Daniel said, the downfall of the Babylonian empire and its oppressive, greedy,and  robbing ways.

Not all revelations are dramatic. But sometimes the writing is on the wall, in a language anyone can read, and it carries a message of hope, not doom.

On a drizzly gray afternoon in winter-gray Seattle, walking my gray Husky past an eight-foot high gray retaining wall, thinking gray thoughts about a gray set of years in my life, I suddenly came upon twelve words spray-painted a bright yellow.  They were arranged in two lines, each line a foot high and twelve feet long, and underscored with a flourish:  

You are a beautiful
person and I want you to be happy.
No need to explain why I smiled and kept smiling, and why I now walk by that message every day and tell everyone I know about it. 

To the artist who tagged the world with joy and comfort and surprise,
Thank you!

UPDATE ON GRAFFITI AND REVELATION:  Several days after this post was published, the City of Seattle covered this yellow message in a mottled gray paint, so the concrete wall looks pristine, innocent of meaning, as if it had never been the carrier of a message of hope. How like revelation this is--something appears, grabs hold of you, shakes you awake, and then disappears, as if nothing had changed in the world.  But it has: What changed was you. And whether the change that resulted will last or disappear like the moment of revelation is up to you.

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