The VigilanceVoice
Friday-- May 24, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 255

"The Thinker..." 
Symbol of Vigilance
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, May 24-- "The Thinker" sits solemnly, back arched, head down, mouth and chin resting on his knuckles, doing what "thinkers" do best--thinking.
       According to art critics, his thoughts are not common.   They ponder the role of humanity, its good and bad, its moral and immoral side, its choice between
Heaven and Hell or of Vigilance versus Terrorism.
       On September 11, 2001, " The Thinker" was displayed on the 105th floor of the
North Tower at the World Trade Center when Flight 11 slammed into the
structure, converting it into a fiery Hell of destruction.
        Ironically, sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was obsessed with bringing to life Dante's vision of Hell.  Among his many works, he carved and molded the "Gates of Hell," expressing its ravages in tormented figures such as the "The Three Shades."  His work on "The Thinker" was designed as a crown piece for the "Gates of Hell."
        Cantor-Fitzgerald, a bond trading company, used "The Thinker" as the company symbol until a few years ago.   In its plush lobby on the 105th floor, the company displayed many of Rodin's most famous works, including "The Thinker."  Had it not been for the loss of 658 of Cantor-Fitzgerald's 960 employees, the loss of "The Thinker" and other Rodin treasures might have been disquieting.   But human sorrow cast a shadow on the loss of great art.   That is, until now, when the New York Post revealed "The Thinker" was not crushed or destroyed, but instead, alive and well--in the hands of a possible thief.  
        It seems an incredible story.
        The Rodin sculpture fell nearly a quarter of a mile into a heap of debris that claimed at least 2,800 lives and countless other precious art pieces that anointed other prestigious lobbies within the world's icon of financial power.
       Many consider the fact "The Thinker" was unscathed during the holocaust is a miracle, but no one denies its whereabouts are a mystery.
      According to the New York Post, someone stole the rare 28-inch statue that symbolizes man's quest to use his mind to resolve the great questions of human existence.
      Authorities questioned a fireman who found the intact piece and had his picture taken with the surviving statue.  The fireman claims he put it in a recovery station and it disappeared from there.   Investigations are underway.
       The story of the "The Thinker" hits close to home for me personally.  In the early 80's I was the acting President of the first franchise for Certified Public Accountants, Accountants Network of America (ANA).  My partners, Steve Kriegsman and Dean Ader, and I visited a stock broker in Los Angeles to raise capital for our project.  
       We discussed his investment in our program over lunch.  During the conversation, he offered us a tour of  his boss's art collection.   He led us up a flight of stairs into a suite of offices that had been gutted to house a massive collection of Rodin's precious works.       There were no security guards, no laser beams, no guard dogs--only a locked door.  The room had no special lighting. It was littered with crates and boxes and pieces of Rodin's most famous art.  The pieces sat quietly in the dim light, impervious to my eyes that feasted on their presence.
       I was shocked at the expanse of the private collection, and yet privately amused as I sauntered between the crowded pieces of precious art, touching them at will, lifting some pieces up to examine the craftsmanship.  The room could have been the collection of a man who amassed toy trains. There was no pomp or circumstance, no pedestals and spotlights igniting the majesty of Rodin's carving,  just soft light filtering in through dirty windows creating a sense of quietly throbbing  reverence to anyone who knew the power of Rodin's work.
      The stockbroker told us that the owner (whose name I cannot recall because of
the wear of time on my gray matter) had recognized the power of Rodin's work
when others denied him credit as a master.   Rodin's harsh artistic representation of the state of man received dull reviews by the critics initially, and enraged Rodin as he  struggled for recognition.   His art was bold and challenging at the time, laced with outer realization of man's struggles and contorted with his psychological insight into human conflict. 
       The stockbroker's boss had purchased many of Rodin's pieces during that lull between Rodin's rise to power as a great sculptor.  The collection included some of the original moulds used to cast Rodin's famous pieces.    I stared at the Gates of Hell, (18x24 feet)  (picture below--note "The Thinker" in the middle), one of Rodin's most famous works, wishing I could spend a couple of weeks in the room just bathing in the selfish privacy of being near such a master of
human expression.  
      Unfortunately, I never revisited the collection We were busy raising 7.8 million dollars to launch our operation, and the chase for funds shoved
 Rodin out of my mind until I read the May
20th article in the New York Times my older daughter had cut out for me.   She remembered my exhalations over seeing the private collection years before and thought I might find some interest in the missing "Thinker" story.  She was right.
        I believe Rodin's "Thinker" was left unscathed as a symbol of Vigilance.  The statue can be viewed from two vistas; from one side of the coin the figure can be pondering the burden of mankind, contemplating the toils of human frailty and the onerous job of struggling through life's existence, or, one can see in the "Thinker" humankinds' resolve, its ability to chose right over wrong, Vigilance over Terrorism, Courage over Fear, Conviction in place of Intimidation, Right Action versus Complacency.
        I chose to view "The Thinker" as an expression of human potential rather than a concession of its flaws.     A Vigilant person is not one who takes his or her
job lightly.  "The Thinker" certainly doesn't.
       Even more important to me is the symbolism behind the "Thinkers" ability to survive Nine Eleven. On September 11, I watched the buildings collapse at Ground Zero, witnessed people leaping from the buildings, heard the cries of mortal pain and felt the Hand of Death on my shoulder.   I also recorded the aftermath of "The Gates Of Hell" event that carved Terrorism into the hearts of all Americans, and told the world that no one was safe from its ability to kill and maim, and bring Hell to any and all who thought they were exempt.
      As I sat in the ashes of destruction, my body covered with soot, typing on my laptop to paint a portrait of the event with words so  that I might never forget what had happened or why, I was sure I saw the Spirits of Vigilance  rising up from the ashes of destruction where the World Trade Center had once been.
      Amidst the soot and ash and screaming sirens and fleeing people, I felt the power of the souls of those who had been sacrificed that day rising upwards, commingling with one another to form a Statue of Vigilance in the ghastly void billowing with smoke and fire ignited by Warriors from Hell.
      I didn't want to think or believe that those countless thousands who had died that day were mere victims of a holocaust, but rather chose to believe they had sacrificed their lives as a symbol to future generations, that we must never again become Complacent against the threats of Terrorism--both of the Physical and Emotional nature.
      Out of the rubble I saw one of Rodin's most powerful art forms rise.   He called it "The Hand of God," and made it sprout out of the crust of nothing into the flourishing world of Hope.
      I saw the Sentinels of Vigilance being born that day, cupped in the Hand of God, rising out of the quagmire of human confusion, reaching upwards, grasping, holding Hope for the future of mankind and womankind to live in a Terrorless world, free of Fear, unshackled by Intimidation, and void of Complacency.
      Perhaps at the time I wasn't so keen on the exact nature of the vision as I am today, but I know there was the birth of Vigilance, and that it was cupped in the Hand of God, as Rodin had so deftly carved his message of human Hope in the 19th Century.
      And, it was "The Thinker" who set into motion the choice between living in a world of Terrorism or in one of Vigilance.   For "The Thinker" was the prompt, the engine of contemplation that reminded all humanity it had to make tough choices for its future security.  It had to chose Courage over Fear, Conviction rather than Intimidation, and to take Right Action rather than sink into the bog of human Complacency.
      Above the World Trade Center stands the statue of the Sentinels of Vigilance.  They look out to the East, West, South, North, peering at the horizon for evidence of Terrorism, one hand on their sword's hilt, the other holding up the Wreath of Peace.
       They beckon all who see them to join them in their Vigilance, to think about the children, and their children's children's right to live in peace and harmony.   They have thought through their mission.
       People have asked me what I think about the alleged theft of "The
Thinker."   I don't pass judgment on that issue.   What interests me more is
that one, it survived, and two, someone recognized its value. 
       The one who took The Thinker will be faced with a tremendous burden, a
weight will descend upon his her shoulders to right the wrong of keeping something for themselves that belongs to the world.  It will force its keeper to return it to its proper place, where all can see it for what it represents--the choice between being a Citizen of Vigilance or one of Complacency.
       "The Thinker" forces us to think through things.   We either take the
Right Action or not after we have considered the options.   
       But there is a bigger thief at large than the one who took "The Thinker."   That thief is Complacency.   It tells us we can turn the control of our destiny and safety over to the government.  It tells us we don't have to worry or work on fighting Terrorism in our homes, in our minds, in our children, in our society.   It tells us there are more important priorities we seek, food, shelter, comfort.
         But "The Thinker" smashes that thought.   It reminds us that our job is to insure our existence on this earth in the most peaceful, harmonious way possible.  And that means we must decide to fight Terrorism with Vigilance.   "The Thinker" radiates the message of  taking the "Right Action."  
         To me, that Right Action is to become a Citizen, a Parent, a
Grandparent, a Brother, a Sister, a Mother, a Father, a Loved One, an Aunt,
an Uncle, or just a "Doer of Vigilance."   
          It isn't about sitting around and letting someone else think for us, but rather to remind us we are responsible for our own thoughts, and that this thinking, is the first step in making a choice.    Ultimately, we must chose to fight Terrorism or become its continuous victims.   If we don't think, we stand at the "Gates of Hell."  
      If we do think, we stand on the crest of Vigilance, in the "Hand of God," warding off Terrorism and living happily ever after.

G0 TO:  May 23--Doctor Of Vigilance

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