Art and Transformation

Creation and Spiritual Art

Spiritual art is not a static object, however beautiful or sublime, but a catalyst that awakens in the participant feelings, thoughts and inspirations leading to appreciation, creation or transformation. The natural world is creative and spiritual.

“Waiting to Die” Street Art

In June of 1993 I was in San Francisco to attend the “Object World” conference. That was a very exciting time for me, as the preceding fall I had formed my own company, “Object Innovations,” to create courseware on programming technologies, especially object-oriented ones such as C++. Here was a whole conference devoted to the subject! One of the speakers was Steve Jobs!

On my way to the Moscone Center where the conference was held, on the first day I came across a piece of street art showing a homeless man, with the legend “Waiting to Die”. That painting stirred me so much — here I was, a privileged person with a good education and many opportunities and was about to attend an exciting conference, while around me were brothers and sisters who did not even have a home. I sat down and wrote this poem:

His face is grizzled and weathered
He has known the trials of life
He is not weak, he has survived much
His strength will carry him
But he has lost the spark of hope
And he is just waiting to die.

His picture is by the gleaming buildings of the city
The comfortable go about their important business
They gather for their convention
They are welcomed by great banners
And the hospitality of food.

A world of movement and enterprise
Of new ideas and challenge
A world of plenty.
Another world so near
A world of hardship and loss
Or of not even having had a chance.

Two worlds on this bright June morning
One world for those with hope
Another for those who are waiting to die.

Ten years later Marianne and I had moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and we took a course in Servant Leadership. We studied the issue of homelessness in the city. I was moved to address the County Commissioners on budget priorities and asked them to place programs for the homeless at the top of county priorities. As a business owner I appreciated the importance of setting priorities. We can’t do everything that is worthwhile to do, so we need to make choices. In thinking about the most basic of needs, surely having a home is close to the very top of what every human being needs. In a rich country such as ours, the fact of homelessness is a true blight.  If we can really address the problem of homelessness, that will benefit our city and make the community better for all of us. I was originally trained as a mathematician, so I thought about finding some facts and figures to present. But instead, it felt better to speak to them from my heart. So I read them my poem.

Sixteen years later my passion for the homeless was reignited by responding to an emergency appeal to drive homeless men after spending a winter night in a church shelter. I am determined to pursue whatever means I can to address this urgent human need.

Climate Change

I also thought of that old poem of mine when I read an article “The Uninhabitable Earth” in which the author laid out a very dark picture of our planet’s future if we do not transform the present course we are on. Already catastrophic storms have led to many deaths and many people losing their homes. I have been deeply concerned about this issue and how we approach it from a spiritual perspective. That led to my writing an article, “Hope and the Climate Crisis“.

Art, whether in the form of a painting or a poem, has been a connecting thread in opening my heart. That street art I saw many years ago was a step in an ongoing process in me of opening to the universal mind and caring deeply about the good of all. I believe that art can play a vital role in the regeneration of humanity. I hope our foundation can play a part.

Bob Oberg
Founder, MOFSA