May 06, 2015
Art selection and comment by Lil Copan
Joe Light was a towering, often disturbing figure in his Memphis community. He aligned himself with the prophets and considered himself a kind of Moses. Before he became an artist, he was incarcerated. In prison in 1960, he heard a preacher explore the Old Testament, and he returned to his cell with the sound of a voice in his head. Commenting on the experience later, he said that he thought he was losing his mind. He tested the voice: “‘If you are God, prove it.’ ‘Step up to the cell door,’ the voice answered, ‘and I’m going to let a bird land on that window sill . . . Tell it what to do, and it will do it.’ And sure enough the bird landed on it . . . That bird on that man’s head is like the spirit of God. I felt the presence of God following me regularly.” While various versions of the birdman exist, this image remains Light’s signature piece. Light was a bit of a loose cannon, said Kevin Gordon, owner of Gordon Gallery in Nashville, “but he was also a man whose personal beliefs were strong, and who wasn’t the least bit afraid to share them with anyone, no matter the consequences.”
And I am one of your many amanuenses writing letters recommending you, then I am free to know you as I do and write you as I will, searching out your ways as I find you and longing to trust who it is I find.
But you are who I say you are and not, who they wrote you were and often are, who I wish you were and I hear Wish again.
So that I, exhausted, resign myself to Eckhart’s ecstatic, My me is God, and I am both glad and sad, for I turn around and there you are and it remains true that I see so little of me in you.
Still, no one is searching for me the way you are, even as I play my childish hide-and-seek with you, until you grow weary of my game and like a father with better things to do, go back to writing the ever evolving You.
Religion is often on display in professional athletics, with the exception of the National Hockey League. The few hockey players who are open about their faith buck a tradition of reticence or downright distrustfulness toward religion. Unlike professional football or basketball, many NHL players come from Canada or Europe, where the culture is much more secular and religious faith is closely guarded. There is also the suspicion in hockey that a person of faith might be too soft a player. Some hockey clubs make chapel services available, but far fewer than in professional basketball (Boston Globe, April 5).