There's a place where you can leave the country without actually stepping foot off the island of Manhattan.
And I've been thinking about leaving this country for a while now.
Last week while I was in NYC, I needed to see past my own reflection in the mirror—past my feelings of being distressed and distraught.
When I walked through that security gate at the U.S. headquarters of the United Nations, I needed some hope.
And what I got, at the very least, was some beauty in the form of art and architecture—starting with nickel-plated doors that were a gift from Canada. Their bas-relief panels symbolize truth (veritas), fraternity (fraternitas), justice (justice), and peace (pax). Who could ask for anything more?
The UN formed in 1945 after WWII—more or less to make sure there wouldn't be a WWIII. Given the current state of affairs, I'm not so sure it will ultimately be successful at that.
According to its charter, it aims "to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small..."
"...and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom." [emphasis mine]
Photo: United Nations Photo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
That means its 193 member states need to play nice with each other—and that means each of them are widely represented in the art that's on display for ambassadors and members of the public alike to enjoy.
For example, there's a freestanding stained glass window, designed by French artist Marc Chagall as a memorial to former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, who died in a plane crash on a peace mission, along with 15 others.
In some respects, it's also in tribute to all of those who have given their lives in pursuit of peace.
It's an incredible, monumental work measuring 12 feet high and 15 feet wide...
...filled with symbols of peace...
...and depictions of the faces of those who continue to struggle for peace.
As you wander the hallways of the New York headquarters, a theme begins to emerge amidst the art collection, as with the José Vela-Zanetti (of the Dominican Republic) mural "Mankind's Struggle for Lasting Peace."
There's also the "Chernobyl" tapestry, hand-woven by Alexander Kishchenko of the Ukraine and gifted to the UN by Belarus in thanks for the organization's involvement in mitigating what was widely-accepted as the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. (For nice detail photos, click here.)
Perhaps it all boils down to the Norman Rockwell mosaic "The Golden Rule," which urges us to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We seem to have forgotten that. Everyone seems to have forgotten that.
There are other UN headquarters located in Geneva, Vienna, and Nirobi, but the New York campus in particular has born witness to meetings of the Security Council (whose mission is to maintain international peace and security)...
...the Trusteeship Council (whose operations were suspended in 1994 after the last remaining UN trust territory became independent)...
...and, of course, the General Assembly, the main organ of the UN that deliberates and makes policies. It' also the only one of the UN's six principal organs in which all member nations have equal representation.
I'll admit that the idea of the UN is nice. But I don't find it very comforting right now.
I find myself wishing I'd dedicated more time to Peace Studies in college. It always seemed like fighting was more effective.
But I'm tired of fighting. There's so much to fight against. It all just feels like too much.
I've had a lifetime of fighting, and I've had enough. I'm ready to live the life of a pacifist. I don't want to draw first.
I just want some peace.
Photo Essay: Stepping Through a Portal of Peace
Photo Essay: In Search of Peace Awareness