February 12, 2011

Calling Contemplatives, Dreamers, & Investors!

“Inner Space in 100 miles” … “Radical. Bold. Blow-your-mind cool.  Inner Space! – 80 miles.” …  “Transform your life! Inner Space – 50 miles” … “Blow your mind and rock your world! Inner Space – 25 miles” … “Almost there! Inner Space.  The coolest place between Minneapolis and Mount Rushmore! – 10 miles” … “You’ve reached Inner Space – the Greatest Wonder of the World!  Come on in!”

Anyone who has taken the great American road trip to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota is familiar with the many signs along Interstate 90.  Along that bed of highway are many ads announcing various competing road-side attractions ranging from Mount Rushmore and Chief Crazy Horse Memorial; to the Badlands, and 1880 Town; to Reptile Gardens and Dinosaur Park; and even to Cosmos Mystery Park, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, and The Corn Palace.  The granddaddy of these heavily announced roadside attractions is Wall Drug. For many miles ahead of this roadside tourist trap there are signs that announce that Wall Drug and its famed “free water” are just ahead. The owner of that pharmacy realized that he needed to do something to get people to visit his store so he adopted the “Burma Shave” model of witty repetitive signage to attract customers.

Frankly, aside from the first three of the places mentioned in that list (and perhaps Wind Cave) each of those are simply ways to separate people from their money. They exploit a captive audience by providing them meaningless drivel and cheap junk that’s mostly made in China.

But what if among that cacophony of pap and crap there was something else offered along that stretch of road?  Something with depth and meaning? Something that could make a difference in people’s lives?

Something known as Inner Space.

Inner Space is a new roadside destination that I am proposing to mark its place on the map and on the American psyche.

Last year my socks were rocked by visiting the most profound man-made place I’ve visited. Of all places, it’s located in Houston, Texas. It’s called the Rothko Chapel. It’s a nondenominational, interfaith, and non-faith art gallery/chapel.  The Rothko is a massive brick and stone building erected in 1971. It looks like an old Masonic Temple from the outside, but when you enter, you see a simple, expansive, interior with a stone floor, a vaulted ceiling, several benches, and a few meditation cushions. The primary feature of this space are the 14 large paintings – massive canvasses painted black.

I have never seen or experienced anything quite like this place that is dedicated solely to providing a quiet environment that is conducive to fostering meditation and serenity.

I propose the creation of a new place similar to the Rothko in the heart of America’s breadbox – right along I-90.

While I don’t like the idea of adding more advertisements across the prairie, there’s something to be said for having some signage to draw people’s attention and invite them in. The signs would be somewhat similar to what the other places use — evocative, promising greatness and wonder, etc. — yet when folks enter, they simply find themselves (and maybe a few others) sitting quietly. Visitors are encouraged to take in and experience the uniquely profound, gorgeous, messy, and amazing wonder that they are in nurturing silence. In my experience (and in the experience of others) sitting still with our own stuff, in the presence of all that is, embracing the present moment –- is truly the greatest and most radical adventure one can encounter.

Hand-outs describing meditation and contemplative/centering prayer would be available, but people can simply sit and enjoy a quiet respite. An oasis in the desert if you will.

There would be no charge for people to enter Inner Space, though I suppose donations could be accepted to pay for upkeep and maintenance. Inner Space would have a team of volunteers who quietly greet people and answer questions – perhaps students from Naropa University or people involved with Contemplative Outreach, etc.

There could be a playroom for children and another room for yoga (something that road-fried bodies would greatly benefit from).

This may be one of those things that’s so crazy that it just might work. To turn this dream into reality would require creating a non-profit organization, a small board of directors, legal assistance, and a pool of investors who believe in this novel concept.

If you’re interested in helping bring Inner Space into being, please contact me at brotherrog at hotmail dot com.

As the movie Field of Dreams put it, “If we build it, they will come.”  When they do, some will laugh. Some won’t get it. Some will want their money back (wait, it’s free!). And some, may be moved, grateful, blessed, and transformed.

Peace and Namaste,


(on an unrelated, or perhaps mildly related, note: my new book is finally out: “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity” )

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