Encountering Truth at Encounter 10
by Christa Wells
I left my camera and my Flip in my suitcase when we left the
hotel on Saturday and again on Sunday.
Can you believe that? New York City and no pictures or film to recall the
occasion. Boo hoo.
I left home in the Saturday morning dark and met Mom at LGA,
because she had flown from Tennessee to join me. The first hour we spent
weeping in the food court over shared stories of horror and grief in places like Haiti and Rwanda. Over other people’s stories
and work and writings. Despite the
differences in our appearances, we have always had this in common.
We felt like country bumpkins navigating the subway, but safely
arrived at the International Arts Movement’s annual Encounter conference at Cooper Union's Great Hall. The Hall lives up to its name—someone
told me 11 presidents, including Abe Lincoln, have spoken in that room. It was my honor to perform two
songs as accompaniment to Sgt. Ron Kelsey’s release of his book Reflections of Generosity: Toward
Restoration and Peace, published by International Arts Movement.
One of the songs, simply titled “Song of Blessing,” is
pretty special to me, as I wrote for the opening of the ROG exhibit at Fort
Drum in special honor of the 10th Mountain Division. This division is specially trained to
fight in harsh terrain and weather conditions and is one of the most deployed
Lyrics were inspired by the Soldier’s Creed and the motto of
the 10th Mountain Division: Climb to glory.
Song of Blessing (for the 10th Mountain
feet find the road that’s narrow and sure
carry you home, when you’ve finished your work
light shine upon you,
you, in the moments
darkness would like to take you in
quiet voice inside you
truth alive and guide you as you run,
be a hard run
of your heart
where peace is born
beauty from the ashes
beauty rise up
where hope comes from
hold your head up, and shoulder the sky
chorus be sung as you follow the fight:
will go into the hills and
fearsome bitter cold
You are a
guardian of freedom in this place
will stand until it’s over
make the climb to glory, you will climb
Sgt Kelsey is graciously sending me 50 copies of his book, and
given me permission to give them away.
First dibs will go to active-duty military—please send your service member friends (from any
country) here to request a copy!
It will be encourage and inspire.
Because we arrived Saturday afternoon, we only sat in on one
session, but the three other speaker/artists we had the privilege of hearing
from in that session were remarkable.
David Sacks is a photographer who absolutely blew my mind. The exquisite beauty and insight of his
work and his humility of spirit were both inspiring as he discussed the idea of giving
away your art in his talk: Philanthropy and the Arts.
Etsuru Sotoo is a Japanese sculptor working on Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece the basilica of the
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
Listening to him speak about the freedom he enjoys as an artist by
choosing to “look in the direction in which Gaudi looked” and which can be
experienced, as in marriage, “precisely because of the boundaries,” was very
Jeffrey Overstreet is a novelist and award-winning
film reviewer, who was an absolutely riveting speaker (and dinner companion). The title of his talk was something like: "How then shall we
tell the story?"
As he turned the
slides and quoted stories that had carried him through childhood, it was obvious how
they move him still—he became choked up as he spoke of them—and how passionate
he is about his work. He focused a great deal on film, and while it’s likely
that not everyone in the room agreed with him on every point (he pointed out
numerous contradictions in the way people of faith often respond to certain
films and books), I’m confident each of us was provoked to consider more
thoughtfully the concept of truth-telling in film and books. Fascinating. I will be consulting his film reviews in the future.
The earth is filled with
such talent, such intelligence, wit and originality.
I encountered human beings this weekend who bear witness to this, and I revel in yet more evidence
of a talented, intelligent, witty and original Designer.