The Illustration Saga

My recent article for the Boston Globe included this unassuming concoction by way of illustration:

Sure, it’s nice, but I would have thought no more of it but for a message from my dear friend Thinker Bill Hackett, Santa Barbaraño extraordinaire. He began:

I was impressed with the Globe people who did that little illustration.

If you find, who created the jewel, I’d like to ask for that person’s interpretation of what the illustration illustrates! 🙂

I’d discuss what I see, but I don’t want to pollute anyone else’s thinking before they put their own clearly in mind. I know what I see and will save for maybe later.

May I ask what you see?

Then, maybe ask if you will ask the artist what he intended?

(Or, “what she intended” except that I am over 40. And the “he” included “her”.) 🙂

Also, note well, please: I would like to buy an autographed original. 🙂

Seriously. My limit though is probably like the price of a good lunch — maybe two at Farmer Boy? 🙂 ($25?)

Never to let Thinker Bill down, I duly got in touch with my editor at the Globe, who replied,

The illustration was done by the Ideas section’s art director, Greg Klee: he literally composed it as he designed the page. He’s very good — although I suspect he would not have nearly as much to say about its meaning as your friend hopes…

Not an hour passed (59 minutes to be precise) before I heard from the aptly-named Mr. Klee himself:

My intent was to show one person is walking away from the churches and the ‘rest of society’ and to be perfectly happy doing so. Is that deep enough? I’d love to know what Mr. Hackett saw?

Upon sharing these remarks with the Thinker, he saw fit to rejoin:

Noting the article’s illustration (which I found to be a first class illustration for my taste and opinion (rare)), I focused the aging visual sensors of it and they sent to the old upstairs computer which then whirred and went to its answering via “What is this? What do I see?”

The initial report was highly favorable. Very highly. “Positive! Positive! Positive! Worth considering. Worth considering. Worth considering. ”

Clean lines. Happy. Cheerful. Clearly positive!

And WOW…all about “religion” and yet with no arguing. 🙂


Towers and spires and domes and churches, temples, mosques?

… and all of them seen as a worthy and positive!

Wow. Good stuff.


Undefined but apparently nice people (Nice people. You know — people just like me. [ No wonder I liked the portrayal. ]

But that was not the end of it. 23 minutes later, Hackett continued:

Just as the semanticist said. “The meaning is not in the word. The meaning is in the mind.”

The illustration’s meaning is not in the illustration. The meaning is in the mind.

“Truth and beauty are in the mind of the beholder….”


The Correct Vision of the Illustration

[ Note that I do not believe there is one “correct” vision. There are several, including the artist;s and yours and my own. ]

If you see the illustration as a charming positive, a whole crowd of people are heading toward their religion to get the spiritual lift and to enjoy the togetherness they anticipate from visiting their house of worship.

My vision? All very positive.

And this is topped off with a charming illustrated note that rings like crystal: One man is especially cheerful. Alive and well, he has already experienced his visit to his house of the spirit and is now so happy inside that he is called to whistle his pleasure.

And then, nearly six hours later!

Yeah! Publicity! Fame and fortuoon (sic) await! I very much liked the little illustration. Quite seriously think quite highly of it.

Do you see several interpretations? Example: The unchurched happy character doesn’t need all that stuff. The nonconformist may be either an early churchgoer should got happy ahead of the rush or perhaps a follower of some guru who believes God is best known by whistling on the streets?

As friend Vernon Johnson once said of real estate “deals”, so with churches and temples and mosques, and all… “Any deal’s a good deal if you look at it long enough.”

And, while on the general subject, everyone is roaring and rioting, hollering, ( and writing.) over the definition of the three-letter word. 🙂

Vastness over to you.

And finally, the next moring, the gentleman made a most appealing proposal (by “The Center” he means none other, of course, than The Center for the Study of Social Structures):

[ Between you and Mr, Klee cooperating in creating museum-quality, 100% response-drawing First Class letter mailings, The Center should garner at least one donor’s interest and support. Shucks, one billion is all we need.

And, you and Mr. Klee may thence enjoy Open Residence Fellowships with the Center in sunny Santa Barbara-by-the-Sea, with airline passes (for two, each, of course) good anytime you want and a well-stocked Center Guest Quarters (Maybe just at San Ysidro Ranch or the Biltmore? ]

As ever, let us heed Thinker Bill Hackett in his reminder (he is always giving such reminders) to look harder and give glory to the good things.

Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.