I decided to photograph folk holding a sign which said simply “Forgive Me”. Upon viewing the photographs I could choose to practice releasing my ideas about that person and maybe provoke thoughts about forgiveness in other viewers.
I Imagined someone whose thoughts were tortured by the mistakes of a doctor. I imagined that maybe seeing a doctor holding the “Forgive Me” sign they might realize that forgiveness was a possibility. A possibility to let go of the burden of holding all doctors to blame. It seems like life can be a collection of incidents with people and judgments attached. I’ve found it helpful to release some of these incidents and free up my vision for a fresh look.
My spiritual path requires forgiveness. I need people to reflect back to me the positions and attitudes which cloud my vision. Having no luck recognizing or releasing these attitudes myself, I can forgive them in others thereby letting myself off the hook a little at a time. Forgiveness is the recognition of perceptual error. To forgive is not to condone but to open myself to the chance that my perception may be limited or skewed. I can’t possibly know what your path entails, where you’ve been and what your motivations are. My judgement limits me.
I decided to start with the homeless. I blame them for making me feel guilty when I don’t give up the dollar asked for or just walk by with a full stomach and freshly showered. I’m afraid of the situation they are in and don’t want it to happen to me. My fear makes me angry.
Edie wasn’t my first choice to hold the sign. I had seen homeless people by the subway holding signs which asked for help and modeled my sign after theirs. I thought I would approach one of those guys and ask him to hold the “Forgive Me” sign. There is a barrier between me and art which is self consciousness, an inner narrative. This conspired to prevent me from approaching the person I had in mind.
As I approached my destination without having the guts to act, I spied a piece of cardboard perfect for the sign and decide to get people I knew to hold It first, then branch out with more confidence. I quickly scribbled the sign as this was art and it deserved spontaneity. The homeless woman I now know as Edie was standing outside the bus station, and I asked her if she would allow me to photograph her holding the sign. She said sure. I asked her name, and she asked me what the sign meant. I told her and she replied “Oh I get it. It’s like the Captain going down with his ship. Is there anyone in your life you would sacrifice your life for?” I was taken aback and replied “maybe my dog and my wife on a good day.” I wasn’t sure she understood, or if she had understood and had leapt to a new understanding of forgiveness. She then told me “there are no homeless anywhere In the world. We are all at home with God.”
I’ve gotten quite a few surprise reactions to the request to hold the sign. Some people are deeply moved by the opportunity. Some seem to have some incident in mind. There are a whole group of people who see it as a big joke and are happy to smile and hold the sign or pose. I try not to direct the participant in any way, and I see myself as recorder of the events. I’ve held the sign once myself and found myself posing with no connection to the sign so I can certainly understand those who react that way.
When I think about the project I still get excited so I’m gonna keep doing it till that’s gone.