The Thinker by Auguste Rodin is one of the most famous sculptures in history.  It is a man, seated.  His chin rests upon the knuckles of his left hand.  He is far away, lost in his thoughts, working through some problem, walking through some memory, worrying about some loved one.  

Rodin made more than one of them, and cast them in different sizes.  They exist across the world, both monumental and smaller.  There is one in Ohio, at the Cleveland Museum of Art that is very unique.  I was excited to see this sculpture, for it is quite famous and has a position of great honor at the southern entrance of the museum.  

The Thinker in Cleveland is not whole.  In 1970 someone set off a bomb and knocked it from its pillar.  There are pictures of it upon the ground, the base of the thinker blown apart by the force of the explosion.  The terrorists hastily scrawled a message in spray paint, “Off the ruling class.”  The bombing seems to be a part of the anti-Vietnam sentiment of the time, where such bombings were not unheard of.  The anger of the younger generation was spilling out in a hundred directions.  It showed itself not just in protests, but in acts of vandalism and violence like this one.

It is at this moment the museum makes a surprising decision.  They choose not to repair the 900 pound sculpture.  They rebuild the pillar, create a new base, and put up the bomb scarred statue to be seen by all visitors.  I found myself before this great statue, staring at the hollow insides which should be hidden.  Sharp metal edges splay out where there should be legs and feet.  There are scuffs upon the Thinkers head and shoulders where he crashed to the ground.  It is upon this wounded Thinker I stared for quite some time on a beautiful April day.

Art is a powerful thing.  It creates feeling which we then try to form into ideas.  We want to take these impressions and grab hold of them.  I found myself that day with many mixed emotions.  Those feelings have not waned as the days go by.  

I sympathize with violence, I really do.  It was my go to option for many years.  It’s how we settled arguments as children.  It’s how the pecking order was maintained in youth.  In the urban centers of America, I wear my history of violence upon my sleeve, so thieves and conmen know to stay away.  And they do.  It’s like we can smell it on each other.  Predators go after weak prey.  I often stare at the world with a challenging glance, daring it to take up the hunt.  My fists are clenched.  My resolve is clear. 

Again, I sympathize with violence from a personal level.  But I am a man between two worlds.  I am from the world I was born in, and of the world I have entered into as a follower of Jesus Christ.  The world I was born in, violence is an option.  But in the world of Jesus, violence becomes less and less justifiable.  I worship a man who had great power.  I follow a man who could speak, and armed soldiers fell back at his voice.  And this man let himself be mocked by sinful men.  He did not answer evil with strength, but with love.  It is an insane thing to watch.  It goes against everything within me.  But He has won me over.  Over the last 25 years, I have been unclenching my fists.  I haven’t hurt a man with my hands since I was in Bible College.  

Standing before this statue, all this and more swim around in my heart.  I am coming quite close to embracing peace as a real way of life.  I am beginning to be saddened by violence.  It is not glorious, but tragic.  It is not an answer, but only a worsening.  The activists who blew up this statue, I am not with them.  I am not for them.  I think they are wrong.  

The mobs that torched businesses during the Black Lives Riots of 2020.  That was tragic and awful and wrong.

The mob that stormed the White House on January 6th.  It is not the answer.  It’s not good or beautiful or right.

Hamas coming into Israel on October 7th and massacring civilians… there is no world in which that is okay.  No injustice makes such atrocities good. 

Israel destroying the West Bank to dismantle the hierarchy of Hamas, killing tens of thousands in the process, I do not cheer such bloodshed.  Doing evil to fight evil cannot be the way.  Killing innocents to avenge innocents will not bring any kind of resolution.  

I know the world is wrong.  I know that the wrongness of the world makes people angry.  What can be done to change the wrongs of the world?  Is vandalizing art the answer?  Some people think so.  I think they are wrong.  I am not for violence against people.  I am not for violence against art, or architecture, or business.  I am not for destruction as political expression.  I am not for violence as vengeance.  I am not for violence as political doctrine. 

All this and more fill my heart before The Thinker.  This statue suffered wrong, and now it stands as a monument to the violence it suffered.  Maybe we too, instead of spending our life creating more of the violence that created us, will let our wounds lead others to a better way.  Maybe, like Christ, we will suffer well, not answer evil for evil, and take our small worlds one step closer to the Kingdom we all long to live in.  Maybe.  

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