“Good.” “Bad.”

The Highline NYC

photo credit: Beyond My Ken

One of my favorite places to bring friends and family who come to visit me in New York is The High Line.  The High Line is a former elevated railroad track that ran between the meat packing district and 34th Street.  Thanks to the efforts of a handful of visionary citizens, the track is now an elevated park with beautiful gardens, intriguing art pieces, inviting gathering places and unusual third-floor views of the surrounding architecture.

I recently noticed a new art installation by the Israeli-born artist Uri Aran.  It is easy to miss at first.  But around 25th St, if you listen carefully, you can hear from among dense leaves a voice listing animals.  Soon it is apparent that it is listing “good” animals, such as a cat or a platypus, and “bad” animals, such as a spider or shark.   The voice is flat and has a slightly pompous tone.

Lisa Goldstein
At first, I was nonplused.  What exactly makes a platypus a good animal?  And why are spiders on the “bad” list?  Didn’t Aran read Charlotte’s Web??  Then I laughed:  I was dividing the good and bad list into my own list of good and bad, and in a way that is every bit as arbitrary as the original list.  And of course I do that all the time, about the strangers I see on the subway, the things I see in shop windows, the ideas that come into my head:  Good.  Bad.  Good.  Bad.

In fact, one of the things I most love about the High Line is that the people who created it were able to see the good in something that the city thought was bad.  Here was a rusted, dilapidated eyesore, ready to be demolished.  But a few neighbors had the imagination to consider what it could become – a place of wildflowers and gelato, a little urban beach and public art.

It’s a great reminder.

2 Responses to ““Good.” “Bad.””

  1. Shalom Gorewitz

    Lisa, Thanks for the log about animals, art, and seeing the good in everything. In this week’s Torah portion there are two animals mentioned as well as the healing power of copper. Animals play important roles in many Torah, Talmudic, and Hasidic stories and each of the tribes have their own animal totems. This recognition has been strengthened by my collaboration with Ojibwa elder and priest, Clinton Elliott. He has helped me understand that each animal has two sides and we have to discern what a spirit, dream, or visitation might mean. We will be offering our tribal-based visions to the public at Whole Foods in NYC in August. More information is available on above website.

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