I walked past the sight where the first-ever controlled self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction took place in 1942. I paused for a moment unable to wrap my head around the implications of that experiment. How the world is so different now than it was in 1942. How that chain reaction changed us: not only scientifically but also our humanity. I kept moving because I was not in the right head-space to take the care needed to think deeply about that.
Next I walked along the Midway Plaisance, which was the center of amusements during the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. It was where all the strange and amazing "human attractions" were located: like belly dancers from Egypt, hula dancers from Hawaii, exotic animals from all over the world and even America's own Buffalo Bill Cody who crashed the party. Each time I walk that mile long stretch of now beautifully manicured landscape, I feel surrounded by the ghosts of 1893. It must have felt like the world had shrunk exponentially during those summer and fall months of that year. I can't imagine what the people who attended thought of all the wonders they saw with their own eyes! I imagine hearing the lingering mixture of countless languages - coming from both humans and creatures.
My walk this evening in Hyde Park includes passing by Rockefeller Chapel. (It is pictured with the blog post for anyone who has never seen it. It is far from humble that the word chapel implies.) This is one of the reasons why I love this place. Because here is where my history is intertwined with the world's history. Rockefeller Chapel is where my graduation ceremony was held when I finished my studies at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. I never imagined myself going to seminary let alone graduating. But here I was, walking down the long magnificent aisle following streamers and banners and my classmates. Wow! A sight almost as amazing as the belly dancers in 1893!
I love to walk through this neighborhood because it escorts me through time. I have never been to Europe, where I'm sure people there encounter daily this sensation of overlapping personal and world history. I am here...in Chicago: grateful for the balmy December weather, the physical ability to stroll through beautiful places, the sensory connection I feel to the long line of humanity and history that came before me, and the love of friends in my life now, who have a delicious bowl of soup waiting for me at the end of this walk.
Life is good.