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Today, Image Director of Programs Tyler McCabe and Marketing Associate Aubrey Allison share their perspectives on the future of art, fostering a culture of empathy, and the role of religion in a thriving inner life. To join them in supporting Image’s annual campaign, click here.

Ruth Weisberg. Sisters and Brothers (detail): Wellspring.

Citizens of the Future

By Tyler McCabe

When I was seventeen I took a course in environmental biology at my local community college. The professor charged into the classroom on our first day, spilled her raincoat and bags around the lectern, and shouted in the language of fanfare: Welcome, citizens of the future!

By the end of this course, she said, we would begin to envision ourselves this way, as citizens riding waves of our own creation, agents of actions rippling forward. And she was not shy about implicating our wallets—even my adolescent wallet with my trickle of income.

We vote with our dollars, she said. It’s the truest vote we have. For example, when you buy a hamburger at McDonald’s, you are voting Yes, I approve of the whole environment surrounding this product: the farming practices, the treatment of the farmers and plant processing staff, the global franchise system, the foundation’s efforts, the pay and benefits of the employees, the waste disposal—all of it.

In the fullness of its action, your $1.39 buys you a big question.

What will be the environment of my future citizenship?

I took this course back in 2008, a year which, like 2015, saw the battlefields of the presidential election roaring and hostages held in a world city (Mumbai) in the name of religion. My stomach remembers the knots of those contentious events and many others, thousands of headlines, a downpour of stories written too quickly to be thoughtful, the whole Internet like a storm drain.

When I log onto Facebook today, I feel exhausted by the churn of reactions and reactions-to-reactions. I do not feel that the mediated world has changed.

And yet I’ve seen a movement that cuts through the churn. For the last five years working at Image—two of them as captain of our financial operations—I have watched an organization that votes for something else with its cash: a future of slow culture marked by empathy for others. The path to this future—can this be right?—is forged by art.

When I stop to consider it, art has a substantial role in healing the world. Mediated narratives (like a short story or an essay) relate to unmediated narratives (our unfiltered daily lives) the way a chisel relates to stone: one informs and alters the other, bringing the raw material of life into a fruition of existence, increased meaning.

When the ghost of my environmental biology teacher hovers over my shoulder, I want to cast my vote for what I really want to see tomorrow. And what I want to see is an entirely different game.

So that’s why I donate to Image: to say Yes to programs and workshops and fellowships and publications that invest in the future of our culture.

I want thriving visionaries who eschew the polemical in favor of work that restores us to our humanity. I want innovators speaking in the language of music, television and film, essay and poetry, design and fashion and installation, so that we may hear what lies at the bottom of our frustrations and desires and fears, so that we may return to our bodies, so that we may rekindle empathy for those we call strangers, and so we may each try to heal our small corner of the world.

It is grand, it is language with pomposity, but it is not hyperbolic: Welcome, citizens of the future! Let us find our seats!

§

An Untranslatable Word

By Aubrey Allison

Like a true member of the Image community, I would describe my faith by quoting a poem:

I both
believe and can’t.
Holding these
together produces
a wobble, I think
it’s time
to take seriously
as a stance.

After writing this poem, Lia Purpura elaborated on this thought: “The seam that fuses doubt/faith, optimism/despair (whatever other binaries one comes up with)—that seam holds for me a kind of light, and a capaciousness…The holding of opposing forces makes me feel like a catfish, looking off in both directions at once. It also keeps curiosity alive.”

Image sustains my curiosity; it is a space within the seams.

Have you ever seen those listicles of “38 Amazing Foreign Words with No English Equivalent” or “20 Untranslatable Words We Need”? Some examples: Iktsuarpok, Inuit: to go outside to check if anyone is coming. Toska, Russian: a sensation of spiritual anguish, an objectless longing, dull aching restlessness. Komorebi, Japanese: the dappled light of sunlight shining through trees.

In my reading life and in my spiritual life, Image is an untranslatable word.

There’s something about Image’s posture of faith that I cannot find anywhere else: The work they publish is unconcerned with agendas or having the right answers. It is concerned with being true to lived human experience. The artists Image attracts are honest, smart, and unwilling to rest on platitudes.

Artists and writers in Image may question, doubt, and grapple with their faith, or feel alienated by it. But they may also express comfort in their faith traditions and find richness there. They can engage their faith directly. Nowhere in Image is that insidious contemporary assumption that faith can be taken seriously only when it is being questioned or lost.

When I feel that the language of faith has been co-opted or gone stale, that I can no longer turn to my religious tradition and find meaning, Image offers renewal, a way to make things new.

Simply put: Image is the untranslatable word I need. That’s why I donate to Image, and why I hope you will, too.

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The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Written by: Tyler McCabe and Aubrey Allison

Tyler McCabe works as the Director of Programs at Image. He has served three times as a reader in the Pacific Northwest Writer Association's annual poetry contest and his nonfiction has been honorably mentioned in Best American Essays. His writing has most recently appeared at The Toast and The Other Journal. He also helps produce a festival called Movies & Meaning and occasionally does freelance book development.

Aubrey Allison works as Marketing Associate for Image and Program Coordinator for the Seattle Pacific University MFA in Creative Writing. She graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2013 with a BFA in Writing. Her work has appeared in Ruminate Magazine, where she served as Website Editor, and Relief Journal.

1 Comment

  1. Peggy Rosenthal on December 9, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    I’ve known you both only through your “jobs” at Image. So how delightful to be treated to you both, here, in your passionate, beatuifully crafted, inspiring prose! Hope it’ll bring lots of $ into Image.



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