Spiritography Day 2: Imaging the Sacred in Everyday Life
I recently journeyed to Memphis, and while there, I stopped by Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home (and final resting place). While I wasn’t interested in touring his home, I found myself fascinated by the stone wall that lined the property. I was struck by the outpouring of adoration for someone who sang and gyrated his way into people’s hearts. Messages of love covered the entire length of the wall. It was like rock ‘n’ roll’s version of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Fans clamored for a piece of the wall to leave personal messages and prayers to the King.
I snapped these photos because they reflect the spirit of pure devotion from fans all over the world. What compelled me to capture these images was their heartfelt vibrancy; it made me take serious pause. I was standing on sacred ground.
Even if one were not familiar with Graceland and its famous owner, this wall simply can not be written off as just another blatant example of vandalism. It calls us to stop and take notice. It is meant to be encountered. It is meant to be engaged. And it makes its statement loud and clear. What may look like acts of vandalism are really acts of devotion. Fans have turned this wall into a timeless memorial with their endearing messages.
The word “memorial” comes from the Latin word “memos,” meaning “mindful.” And the German word for “monument” is “denkmal,” meaning “thought object.” Graceland’s wall is both of these because it takes us back to the past and forward to the future, linking generations, while leading us to think of our own lives and to contemplate questions of mortality and meaning. The wall is a place where spirit is alive and well, giving fans a sense of warmth and welcome, and it will tell its tale to the many generations that follow.
Our need to establish memorials is a universal one. We want to remember and be remembered. No one wants to be forgotten. For centuries, we have erected commemorative statues, buildings, museums, and monuments, in memory of those who have perished in natural disasters, major accidents, and wars. We do the same for famous people who have brought inspiration to our lives through their gifts and talents. From the pyramids to roadside memorials, we commemorate our loved ones to keep their memories alive, not just in the world but in our hearts. It allows us to cope, to heal, to appreciate, but always to remember.