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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Renaissance by Fire: Returning Veterans, Society & the Forging of a New Enlightenment

VAP_0198Just a few days ago, Vet Art Project creator and founder Lisa Rosenthal honored me with the opportunity to develop a program, one of many upcoming VAP offerings that I've mentioned here before, as part of February's month long Chicago Cultural Center Incubator Series.

The list of events taking place next month is enormous.

Please visit the Vet Art Project website for a full listing; you can also download the event flyer [pdf] for all the specifics. All activities and community outreach work that Lisa has been doing in neighborhoods all across Chicago since October, will culminate in a public performance not to be missed:

New Art About War from the Vet Art Project Incubator
February 23rd, 2009, 7:30 p.m.
Studio Theater
Chicago Cultural Center [Info and directions]
Randolph & Michigan Ave.

No fee but advance reservations are recommended. For tickets: or 312.742.8497.

But, a reminder: There are dozens of VAP offerings throughout February; please see the full listing [pdf].

If you are a Chicago-area veteran -- of any and all generation -- or a military family member, these events are meant to engage and delight you. If you're a civilian living in the area, you're definitely part of this community-veteran conversation and artistic expression. Please join us at any number of the free events being offered next month. Details on my event, Renaissance by Fire, in extended.

This is a special, special engagement for Chicago. Don't miss it!

Renaissance by Fire: Returning Veterans, Society & the Forging of a New Enlightenment [A community discussion - OPEN TO THE PUBLIC]


veterans_niu2A discussion examining how combat veterans are leading us to a stronger awareness and consciousness of the pervasive themes (conflict, love, loss, honor, violence, etc.) that envelop society and its veterans alike.

A program on the eve of the first anniversary of the Northern Illinois University school shooting.



The exchange will be led by Ilona Meagher, author of Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops and recipient of NIU’s 2008 Illinois Journalist of the Year Student Scholarship Award.

Ilona's special guests include:

// this list is fluid and will fill and firm up as we move closer to the event//

- NIU Veterans Club members (TBA)
- Anna Stevens, current NIU grad student and Vet Club Secretary, former Naval officer.
- J.D. Kammes, current NIU student and Vet Club member, former Kosovo and Iraq veteran.
- Jeff Merkel, former NIU student and Navy combat medic with service in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Bruce Jacobsen, NIU alum and Vietnam-era vet, VietNow Director and Legislative Rep - Rockford Chapter.



This event will not be a discussion on war, per se.

Rather, the aim of this program is to explore issues that all of humanity grapple with, themes that revolve around dealing with the complexity and dichotomy of life, the search for meaning and purpose and satisfaction in life, etc. All veterans, even those who do not directly serve in combat, hone certain skills due to their sacrifice of time and work as part of a larger and more powerful entity.

Those sent to combat, are forced to deal with these universal themes in a more direct way.

Because of this, they have knowledge that they can provide the rest of civilian society. While veterans during deployment and during their return to society need the social supports of those on the home front, civilians often forget what veterans can provide them in return.

This event aims to examine those issues in a dynamic, inclusive discussion format.

Discussion flow

I’m planning to divide our discussion time into four sections where we’ll bounce around:

--- Funny stories/reflections on military life, including how civilians are different than military-types
--- The bonds (love/brother-sisterhood) shared by military members, including positive aspects (honor/heroism) of combat or of serving as one among many toward a purpose higher than self
--- The existential/spiritual challenges that veterans face when trying to resolve the difficult things they see and do during combat, what is learned about life in the process, and how meaning is forged (or not forged) as a result
--- What civilians should know about veterans, what they can do to best welcome them home into their communities



More on the Vet Art Project:

More on the intimate and gorgeous space that is the landmark Chicago Cultural Center:

If you are on Facebook, get the latest updates and confirm your participation at the Renaissance by Fire event page.



“It is important not only that the veteran tells his story but that he experiences it as being heard. Today, we tend not to think of people as living in tribes. But we all need a sense of belonging to a tightly knit community in which we have significant relations that matter to and help uphold us all. Having one’s story validated is a critical step in the transformation of identity into warriorhood and mature adult status. The public platform is necessary for the story to get passed on and become part of the community’s collective wisdom and mythic history.” -- Dr. Edward Tick, author of War and the Soul

Dr. Tick is credited with being the inspiration for the Vet Art Project.

VAP creator and leader Lisa Rosenthal has stated that after reading War and the Soul, she was moved to take the journey she is on to help forge ties between veterans and the society they serve. The Vet Art Project is also inspired by the following quote used by Lisa in all of her materials:

“Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding, and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war. And they can teach us how to make peace with ourselves and each other, so we never have to use violence to resolve conflicts again.” -- Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh

If you are in the area, or if you know others who are and would be interested in attending Renaissance by Fire, please come and/or help spread the word. All are welcome!

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