Visioning Peace

Recently, artist and University of San Francisco professor Richard Kamler organized the “Seeing Peace Billboard Project,” where ten artists from around the world were invited to imagine peace on a billboard-size scale. The result is ten very unique billboards placed around the city of San Francisco for all to see. It is Kamler’s profound hope and belief that, with the aid of the billboards, people will begin visioning peace, and he is convinced that without this step, we will never get there. The following video features Kamler speaking about his project against a video backdrop of the various billboards:

After watching the video I was reminded of a book I read a few years ago by author Gregg Braden, titled “The Isaiah Effect, Decoding the Lost Science Of Prayer and Prophecy,” in which the author discusses the Great Isaiah Scroll, one of the 25,000 fragments of papyrus, parchment, and hammered copper known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nearly one thousand years older than existing copies of the Old Testament’s Book of Isaiah, the twenty-two-foot-long Isaiah parchment was still rolled and sealed in its original earthen vase when it was discovered in 1946. Displayed today in Jerusalem’s Shrine of the Book Museum, the Great Isaiah Scroll is believed to be so precious by modern scholars that it’s withdrawn into a vault beneath the building’s floor in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

Mingling religion with principles of Quantum physics, Braden postulates that Isaiah, the first Old Testament prophet, left precise instructions to the people of the future describing an unconventional mode of prayer. I recall being profoundly affected by his theory when I first read it. Braden brings to light the fact that some indigenous cultures are praying in the manner described in the Isaiah scroll and provides a specific example of an instance where he accompanied a Native American friend to a sacred prayer circle in the mountains of New Mexico. After several months of severe drought, the tribe commissioned the elder with the responsibility of praying for rain. He and Braden hiked to a sacred site in the mountains of New Mexico, whereupon the elder simply walked around the circular site marked by boulders.

When the elder indicated that it was time to depart, Braden reacted with surprise, saying, “I thought you were going to pray for rain?” The elder corrected Braden: “No, I said I was going to pray rain.” Braden asked the difference between praying for rain and praying rain, and the elder explained that when he prays he uses all his senses to envision the outcome for which he is praying. In the instance of rain, in his mind’s eye he sees rainclouds roll across the sky and big fat raindrops fall from the heavens. He imagines the feel of the cracked earth turning to mud and squishing between his toes. He conjures the smell of the wet earth, the sound of thunder, and the taste of the clean, fresh rain on his tongue. He uses all his senses to “vision” rain. Indeed, that same day, the skies clouded over and the rains came, despite a weather forecast that called for sunshine.

Perhaps Kamler is on to something. If his billboards are a catalyst for us to “vision” peace, perhaps we will be able to create peace. It is my fervent hope that he is correct.

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