Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Traveling Light

Walking to the PATH train after work last night, I was struck by the sight of the Empire State Building, which was flooded in a stunning shade of cobalt blue. The building's Web site states that the lights were commemorating Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Tomorrow, the Empire State Building's lights are slated to honor "Child Abuse Prevention," which presumably means the "April Is Child Abuse Prevention Month" campaign. The lights will be...cobalt blue.

In other words, two nights in a row, the building's lights will be the same color, but one night represents a cause that is completely different from the other. Call it Empire State transubstantiation.

Yes, I know there's no Real Presence of Jazz at Lincoln Center or child-abuse prevention amidst the building's lights. But there is a similarity to transubstantiation in that if one takes a spiritual view of things—which I can't help doing when I look at that hauntingly beautiful shade of blue—then a fundamental change takes place in the lights' nature. One night, they're shot through with cool, muted trombone sighs and a diva's smoke-tinged grace notes. The next night, they're infused with sensitive tones of compassion and concern for suffering youths.

Nothing about the lights' color changes over the two nights—and yet, everything changes, because its spiritual essence is transformed.

* * *

Speaking of Child Abuse Prevention Month, the organization behind the event, Prevent Child Abuse America, is offering a special Spider-Man comic book to promote its cause, with a storyline that sheds new light on Peter Parker's punishing past:
The Amazing Spider-Man and The Brace, the new villain in town, discover that they share a past as victims of the same school bullies. They come to understand that a witness who spoke out against Spider-Man's humiliation helped set the future Super Hero on a path of helping others, while The Brace, who had no ally, became a bully himself.
The organization's Web site also offers a PDF "bullying tip sheet"—that's as in preventing bullying, not a how-to—which, unfortunately, is loaded with questionable advice like, "Agree with the bully. Say, 'You're right.' Then walk away."

Back when I was Bully Target No. 1, I tried agreeing. It got me the standard bully reply: more abuse.

Better advice would be, "Have your mother call the bully's mother"—the only thing that worked for me.

Go ahead, say it; I don't care. So what if she did wear combat boots?

For another view on the Empire State Building's lighting and its meaning, read my friend Caren Lissner's classic New York Times op-ed "The Skyline as Headline."