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GROUND ZERO PLUS 1249 DAY--New York, NY, Wednesday, February 9, 2005--They are called "The Gates" and 7,500 of them are being raised in New York City's Central Park to create a 23-mile journey through the most perishable commodity on earth--life itself. I call them "The Gates Of Vigilance."

I walked through Central Park when they unloaded the materials and then on Monday when the process of raising the gates began. This is a pre-story to the unfurling, but it doesn't matter if the gates fly saffron or not to be "Gates of Vigilance."

7,500 saffron flags will be raised to create a 23-mile journey through Central Park

Famed and controversial environmental artist Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude are the engines behind the conversion of the park's 843 acres into a sweeping salute to the idea that all things come and go, and while the beautiful things are here, we all should embrace them as we might a new-born child.

Christo and Jean-Claude refer to all their massive outdoor art forms as "children," and limit the time of their display to mere days. Each of their many worldwide exhibits of life "all wrapped up" is considered a child, and loved separately and distinctly for being who they are. (see interview with Christo & Jean-Claude by James Pagliasotti)

When they draped the German Reichstag in Berlin in fabric, it lasted only 14 days. The project in Central Park is slated to exist for only sixteen.

The Christos draped the German Reichstag in Berlin in 1995
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"Our art is about the beauty of life's love and tenderness," the artists' claim. "It is about the perishability of all things. People forget to respect and admire the beauty of life because they think things will always be the way they are--good or bad. Our art comes suddenly and then goes suddenly. It reminds us all that today is the day to love and appreciate, not tomorrow."

Residents of New York City since 1964, Christo and his wife have waited for years for the city to approve the project. Mayor Bloomberg, a fan of Christo, set his approval on the plans after previous mayors denied them a forum in Central Park.

Saffron-colored flags will fly from the 16-foot high gates positioned every 12 feet through the vermiculating pathways wending their way through the parks nearly 900 acres. Various widths of the paths, ranging from six to eighteen feet, create a telescoping effect as the gates widen and narrow.

The nylon thread to weave the saffron material represents 116,339 miles, equal to about five trips around the earth or nearly half the distance to the moon.

Placed at strategic intervals are steel footings for the foundations

Anchoring the extruded steel frames that keep the gates upright are 15,000 steel footing weights weighing between 615 and 837 pounds. The steel footings allows the gates to be constructed without digging or creating any holes in the earth. A total of 5,290 tons of steel will be used as the foundations for the gates, equal to about two-thirds of the steel employed in the Eiffel Tower.

But the real story about The Gates isn't the 700 people working in teams of seven to raise 100 gates for each group so the project will be ready for its unveiling on time, the real story is about what happens to anyone when they pass through any "gate."

700 people worked in teams of seven to erect the 100 gates

A gate is a passageway from someplace to another place. It represents a demarcation between the future and the past, good and bad, right and wrong, day and night, plus and minus, evolution and stagnation and a host of other concepts that only a "gate" can conjure.

For some, a gate might represent stepping from freedom into tyranny and bondage, for they see a gate as the forcing of one's self to conform to whatever is on the "other side." Some might think passing through the gate is entering a "prison," while others might see the passageway as the triumphant arch through which all pass on their way to fulfillment of human destiny.

A Terrorist may see the gate as a tribute to the Western culture and that 7,500 of them is symbolic of the Western World's sense of glut and waste, or that it represents some form of idolatry trying to veer one's attention from the strict nature of Islam and therefore seek to blow up one or more as a response to the hedonism of Western culture.


They mean as many things to as many people as there unique fingerprints, and no one particular definition can be underscored as "right" or "wrong," for art, by its nature, is bloviated and amorphic.

However, there is one absolute about The Gates.

It is a series of passages.

The Gates symbolizes a series of passages: from Vigilance to Terrorism.....or Terrorism to Vigilance

One enters and exists.

Or, one exists and enters.

The sixteen-foot gate is a definite debarkation point from-to or to-from.

That's why the project is, to me, The Gates Of Vigilance.

Vigilance is the other side of Terrorism.

Terrorism is the other side of Vigilance

Neither can exist without the other, just as light cannot exist without darkness, or life without death, good without bad, right without wrong.

On one side of the gate, sits the Triad of Terrorism....

On one side of the gate, the Terrorism side, sits the Triad of Terrorism--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency. On the other is poised the Principles of Vigilance: Courage, Conviction and Right Actions for the Children's Children's Children.

As one passes "from" "to" or "to" "from" he or she brings along elements of both sides.

If one is inclined to live more in the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency of life, there will be no awareness of the passage. It will be a dull thud, a tree falling in an silent forest, for Terrorism's most hideous of elements--Complacency--will have driven away the expectations that one can evolve and replace that feeling with that only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

Human numbness is not a learned trait, it is one acquired by some individuals who simply give up on their humanity. These are the ones who look in the mirror and see a nail and think of everyone else in the world as a hammer. These are those who think of themselves as a loser, a failure, a nobody, a speck of dust in a universe of trillions of specks that has no manifest destiny but to not "rock the boat" and walk in the shadows of all others.

....On the other is poised the Principles of Vigilance

The Gates of Vigilance offer the "numb" the opportunity to awaken.

If they see the passageway of one of the 7,500 gates as a movement from Emotional Terrorism to Emotional Vigilance, that is, a locomotion from Fear to Courage, from Intimidation to Conviction, from Complacency to Right Actions for the Children's Children's Children, then each gate offers them "freedom from" the Triad of Terrorism.

And, this transformation need not be an epiphany.

Like all things in life, Vigilance over Terrorism comes in tiny steps, minor degrees of evolution. To achieve freedom from the Triad of Terrorism, one needs only pass through the gates with One Percent more Courage than Fear, One percent more Conviction than Intimidation, One Percent more Right Actions for future generations than Complacency (powerlessness and inaction).

The Gates of Vigilance offer anyone 23 miles of opportunity to move through the Triad of Terrorism into the Principles of Vigilance. They offer 7,500 challenges to insure one of them works.

Christo and wife reflect on the construction of a long sought dream

If humanity has a failing, it is in giving up too soon, quitting before the miracle happens, stopping a few yards from the finish line without ever seeing how close they really are to crossing it.

That's why there are so many gates. One can pass through many of them, as they do in life, until they come to realize what they really mean--the evolution of human nature above the Beast of Emotional Terror who seeks to keep us in eternal bondage.

I can hardly wait to walk through The Gates of Vigilance when they are completed.

But even without the saffron, I know what awaits me.

I also know how perishable Vigilance is, and why I will drink heavily from Christo and Jean-Claude's well when I do travel through their Gates of Vigilance.

Cliff's Photos of The Gates Of Vigilance from the ground up
Cliff's Photos of The Gates Of Vigilance from the ground up


Go To Yesterday's Story: " A Bite Of The Vigilance Apple: Israel & Syria Heading Toward 21st Century "Ping Pong Diplomacy



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