Eternal flame

Today we remember President John F. Kennedy, on the anniversary of one of the most heart-breaking moments in our national history. We’re compelled to stare at the images of the motorcade and the bedlam. Pour over accounts of the man who shot him or not, was it conspiracy or not, was it even this man who did the shooting or not.

It is a moment the people of November 22, 1963 needed to get through. Yet, we hang on. Do we have some unfinished business there? Are we not satisfied with the story? Do we really believe it even happened? This Camelot. This ideal. This wunderkind of a man, youthful good looks, fine tailored suits, oratory that stirred, calling us to action toward a future that held such promise.

Eternal Flame JFKHow could a force that vibrant and a life so dynamic have been snuffed out. It is fitting that we remember him by a flame, the “eternal flame” — A memento that helps us over the difficult time. Suggests that his memory and direction and energy and ideals live on, even in us. In those who stand by and pay our respects in remembrance of him. We snap a photo to honor him and remember the moment.

Odd, that. Snapping a photo of a flame, especially an eternal flame. As if we can capture it, print it and make it our own personal reminder of this moment and this man. Perhaps we would do better to savor it in our minds. Let it take hold there and seep down deep into our souls. Allow it to take root. Because those photos are always so disappointing later. They never quite do justice to their object.

I wonder, too, about those photos taken in the bright light of day. The flickering flame, dancing and moving on the breeze, fed by an unseen source of fuel. There’s a life to that. But not to the snapshot. Not to the still life. And perhaps, especially, not in the daylight. After all, the flame is best seen at night, when it gives light rather than competes for it.

We’re all taking pictures and videos these days. They are shared far and wide. In fact, their worth is often measured by how many click-throughs they achieve or how many views they get. The most poignant ‘go viral.’ An interesting term: the spread of a disease.

Unfortunately, the photo of President Kennedy that got my immediate and longest attention is the one just after he is shot. He is slumped and Mrs. Kennedy dives backward in desperation. After this I am drawn to the photo of his son John saluting his father; it is the boy’s 3rd birthday. Why are we compelled by images like this?

Perhaps by emotion or pain or memory or perhaps by inquisitiveness and disbelief, in that instant we hold the story still. The photos are iconic because, through them, we see more. That’s why we stare and stare. From the distance of 50 years we both look back and look ahead. Are we safer? better prepared? more aware? Are we different?

In an instant, we lost a president. The shock waves of that moment took hours and even days to reverberate around the world. Today, they would be so instantaneous we would be struck almost simultaneously with the news. Imagine that moment…

There is a light that flickers even in that stillness. Even in that darkness.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1, 5)

We need not be afraid of the dark. We have a light that dances and lives.


About wlebolt

Life comes at you fast. I like to catch it and toss it back. Or toss it up to see where it lands. I do my best thinking when I'm moving. And my best writing when I am tapping my foot to a beat no one else hears. Kinesthetic to the core.

Posted on November 22, 2013, in Body, Mind and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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