11 MILES / 11 PHOTOS — people and things that caught my eye while trekking through Chicago one sunny morning.
There’s more than one reason why this hand-scrawled message gave me reason to stop. First of all, I was darn impressed that whoever did the scribbling spelled “PERMANENT” correctly. I spell-checked it on my phone just to make sure. I can never remember if it’s “-NENT” or “-NANT.” I won’t soon forget.
A second reason this graffiti caught my eye was the fact that I was walking through the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago. Anybody who’s anybody or wants to be somebody, and can afford it, lives in Lincoln Park. Notice the decorative wrought-iron; even the window guards look expensive. Not something you’d pick up at your local Ace Hardware.
In this north side neighborhood, three out of four residents have a college degree. The average household income is around $135,000. A 2-bedroom condo will run close to $400,000; a 3-bedroom house, not far from a million; a 4-bedroom house, easily more than a million. Property taxes? Believe me, you don’t want to know!
So, who writes NOTHING IS PERMANENT on a limestone window sill in the middle of Lincoln Park? An owner who’s “under water” on his mortgage, owing more than the place is worth? A spouse who just got a divorce and wants to leave a mark? A kid in the dark of night when no one’s looking? A Chicago Cub fan?
NOTHING IS PERMANENT – if that message is descriptive of life, then there are at least two human responses that get played out in individuals and nations. One is anxious living. What I have, I have to keep and guard. What’s mine is mine to protect, to hoard if necessary, to keep at all costs. The side effects? It makes me miserly, ungrateful, aggressive, embattled, suspicious of others’ motives, always looking over my shoulder to see who’s catching up with me.
NOTHING IS PERMANENT – if that message is descriptive of life, then the other human response is a liberating freedom. I learn to hold the handles of life more loosely, to de-accumulate, to shed what is unnecessary. Is consumerism really the highest expression of patriotism? I learn to want what I have and to be content with what I don’t have. The side effects? The tension in my shoulders eases up. I learn to tread lightly on this planet. I become a friend of humor, more tolerant, and quicker to forgive. I’m less prone to competitive sideward glances to see how others are doing compared to me.
NOTHING IS PERMANENT. Every day, as soon as our feet hit the floor, we decide how to respond to that reality.