Any heritage month helps us learn about and appreciate our neighbors' traditions and culture. It also instills self-respect. September 15 marked the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, in recognition of Americans of any race whose ancestors come from Spain or a Spanish-speaking country. They are the fastest-growing ethnic population in the US, with more than 35 million people. They're from over 20 countries, so they are a culturally diverse group. Having learned Spanish as a second language and using it in my work enriches my interest in and appreciation for these cultures.
It's inspiring to see how Hispanics and others succeed in their fields without compromising their individual vision, not trying to look, act, and sound like someone else. Their freedom of expression adds a richness that blesses everyone.
Last winter, we attended the Nashville Symphony's performance of Symphony No. 2 - Sinfonía Indía by a Mexican composer, Carlos Chavez (1899-1978). He didn't try to sound like Beethoven. He incorporated musical themes and rhythms from tribes in Mexico into his music. Watching the expanded percussion section was an adventure in itself. Gourds, rattles, and objects we couldn't even identify resulted in a wonderful and fresh sound, uniquely his.
Recently we attended a movie chronicling the work of an amazing Spanish architect, Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926). His work almost defies description. An underground church sanctuary in Colonia Guell near Barcelona combines religious tradition with the untamed look of tree roots rising toward an undulating ceiling. Technologically and structurally sound, it's a brilliant design. His buildings boast smooth surfaces resembling weathered rocks on the Spanish coast or ceilings that ripple like sand at low tide. Spirals, elliptics, twisted swirls of metal and cement, form parks, houses, apartment buildings. His famous Church of the Holy Family rises in shameless originality from an ordinary plaza.
Such artists inspire me with their fearlessness. Unafraid of cultural norms, they explore creative ideas without concern for public approval. Although in these particular cases, public approval followed.
It reminds me of the fearlessness expressed by Christ Jesus. Despite rigid molds of religious tradition, Jesus boldly preached a good and loving God, unconcerned with formalities or fanfare. He spoke to the stranger and healed the untouchable. He saved the prostitute and restored the corrupt tax-collector. Living his nature as the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus rose from the dead and later ascended above material limitations altogether. Undeterred by conventional religious preaching and practice, Jesus expressed his spiritual nature fully.
He left this legacy to his followers, challenging them to discover their spiritual identity, beyond the cultural, artistic, or intellectual. He invited Nicodemus, a successful religious leader and politician, to be born again. Perhaps Jesus was urging Nicodemus to move beyond his Jewish heritage to discover his spiritual nature. Isn't this the demand for each one of us? Beyond the boundaries of one's own cultural heritage is spiritual identity, just waiting to be discovered and expressed.
Christ is divine nature, the perfect spiritual expression of God. Jesus fully expressed this individuality. His nature was more than human; it was divine. Jesus' individuality was deeper than cultural expression. He opened the door to the spiritual aspect of identity.
This month, we can appreciate the achievements and contributions of Hispanics - be inspired by their successes, strengthened by their perseverant struggles for freedom. And we can reach beyond human heritage to seek the spiritual. Looking to Jesus as the exemplar, we can discover more of our Christly identity.
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God is the parent Mind, and
man is God's spiritual offspring.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)