Sue Bradley: Pittsburgh and the Thousand Points of Light – Part One

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be;

and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new?

it hath been already of old time, which was before us. Eccl. 1:9-10

Picture 1
The Point, the Underground River


With only hours remaining before the Opening Reception for the G20 Summit, there continues to be vague curiosity among officials and residents regarding Mr. Obama’s choice of Pittsburgh, PA to host the most politically exclusive gathering of world economic heavyweights meeting for the second time this year.

First held in Berlin in 1999, the G20 brings together major industrialized and developing economies to discuss global economic issues.  Since 2006, the forum’s platform has developed to include the discussion of global energy and resource commodity markets as well as an assessment of the impact of global demographic changes.

The Pittsburgh G20 Summit will follow a quantum week of political assemblies and inaugurals for US President, Barack Obama. Following private talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and delivering the Opening Remarks at the 5th Clinton Global Initiative on September 22nd, delivering an address before the UN General Assembly on September 23rd, Mr.Obama will Chair  the UN Security Council’s 6191st session before departing New York for Pittsburgh to host the Opening Reception and Working Dinner for the G20 Summit on September 24th.

In April, following the London G20 Summit, French President Nicholas Sarkozy announced that it had been “decided” that the next “summit will take place on or after the United Nations General Assembly in September in New York.”  What would it be about Pittsburgh that would launch it to the international status of previous Summit venues such as Montreal, Melbourne, Cape Town, São Paulo, New Delhi, Beijing, Washington, DC, Ottawa, Berlin and London?

An article published in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on September 22, “Newsweek staffer says ‘Burgh beguiled Obama,” explains:

A national political journalist says Pittsburgh isn’t just a meeting place for the world’s leaders for this week’s Group of 20 economic summit.

Instead, says Howard Fineman, Newsweek’s senior Washington correspondent and columnist, the city is the example of what American cities could do to thrive as industry moves to other countries.

“Pittsburgh’s future is collateral for the G-20 leaders who are coming here to look us over,” said Fineman, who also is the magazine’s senior editor and deputy Washington bureau chief.

The City’s mayor Luke Ravenstahl views President Obama’s selection as a way for Pittsburgh to be “highlighted in a way we never have before…We’re looking at this as an opportunity to reintroduce the world to Pittsburgh.”

More recognizable as home to a blue collar baseball, football, and hockey, Heinz 57 and Iron City Beer, any native resident over 50 remembers the “Smoky City’s” pungent gases, gritty air and buildings blackened by two centuries of coal mining, metal working and steel production.  In 1868, author James Parton described “the ‘Burgh” as a “hell with the lid off.”

But for over five months, the City of Pittsburgh has been sprucing up and preparing for the largest body of political luminaries, press corps, volunteers, subcommittees, activists and security teams ever to gather in the City. The official sites selected for receptions working sessions were tapped for their ability to showcase the Transformation City’s unique heritage and vision.

As the US Representative Host, President Obama found a venue that could say “Welcome to the United States” in a manner unlike anywhere else on the planet. And where better than in a garden?

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens have been a benchmark Pittsburgh favorite for over a century.  A Victorian Era glass house is known as the “Green Heart of Pittsburgh,” and its recently completed earth-sheltered Welcome Center earned Phipps the distinction of the first LEED-Certified Building in a public garden.

Picture 2

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

The featured exhibition at the Phipps Conservatory is a collection of garden glass artistry by East German born Hans Godo Frabel who, in 1968, established an award winning studio in Atlanta, Georgia. The exhibition, Life in the Gardens is designed to  

“whisk guests away to a dazzling, fresh world … filled with whimsical and otherworldly figures, mysterious masks, playful sculptures, and a botanical interplay never before seen…

Mr. Frabel’s website provides additional explanation for this “otherworldly” menagerie:

New at this exhibition is the “Longfellow Gravity” installation that consists of 3 large cubes that seem to tumble down a hill into a pond, surrounded by 14 Longfellows in different sizes that look and see this all happen, but are able to play during all of this.

It is about seeing fun and enjoyment, even when things around you are not as easy as they once may have been. Further, Frabel created his “Tower” installation, a large version of his 1970’s sculpture titled: “Tower of Babel.”

The Tower

The Tower, Hans Godo Frabel

It would be impossible to impart a more exquisitely precise communique to the world – and from a country already embroiled in the moral and political quagmire of an earlier Babylon – than a welcome to a distinguished ‘company of nations’ with a glass sculpture which ethereally resonates an ancient and united message.

If the oddities ended in the Welcome Gallery the “Welcome” experience might be less irreverent.  Instead of “The Tower” securing the entrance to the alluded “Hanging Gardens,” a brochure promises the visitor a far more extraordinary revelation.


LongfellowsIs this really what it’s all about?  A type of  “Official Disclosure” gone silly or a less traumatic introduction to real Earth Ecology 101?   While “otherworldly” figures doing playful balancing acts on land and water and spheres in the background is whimsy for some, for others, making “contact” is a high-stakes battle for the souls of men.

There are many who view the choice of Pittsburgh as a gathering place for the planet’s political and economic elite as a natural and sacred destiny.  The “most bridged city in the world” would be the physical representation of the anticipated imminent cosmic ‘shift:’ the evolutionary spiritual ascension of humanity.  In addition to the World Council of Churches’ Faith Leaders Summit scheduled to coincide and interact with various delegations, dozens of Buddhist monks and thousands of smaller interreligious and faith assemblies have organized less politically motivated services, ‘sacred activism’ and celebrations.


Economics and Ecology according to Jude.

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Jude 1:6

Prevalent themes in twenty-first century culture, science, ethics and theology are the hybridization of genetic material, the exploration of  “consciousness phenomena,” and, with increasing frequency, the integration of both.  With escalating bravado, this mingling presented in the nineteenth century as the enlightenment of theosophy is now advanced under the popular and sophisticated label of Noetic Science.

Culture and science see no bounds.  Ethics and theology see danger already on-board and pushing forward into the realm of the irretrievable.  Why such a variance?

The otherworldly explanation is found in the Greek, oikētērion, the “dwelling place” or “habitation” of the spirit.  It was from oikētērion that the Grigoi of Genesis 6 departed to corrupt the human bloodline and thwart the redemptive mercy.   It is from oikētērion that our eco-centric planet is charged.  Our ecology is indeed our planetary dwelling place.  The ecosphere is the region around a star which support life-bearing conditions. Our economy is our household management.

And it is from oikētērion that our eco-centric planet is driven.  It is worthy to note that in Scripture, all that is driven, is directed away from God, in a sense of being banished.


The eyes world will watch, the ears of the world will listen, and the lips of the world will speak, chant and pray, as they have in countless centuries past.  In his first address before the United Nations General Assembly, US President Barack Obama assured the world:

But it is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 – MORE THAN AT ANY POINT IN HUMAN HISTORY — the interests of nations and peoples are shared. The religious convictions that we hold in our hearts can forge new bonds among people, or they can tear us apart. The technology we harness can light the path to peace, or forever darken it. The energy we use can sustain our planet, or destroy it. What happens to the hope of a single child — anywhere — can enrich our world, or impoverish it.

We know the future will be forged by deeds and not simply words. SPEECHES ALONE will not solve our problems — it will take persistent action. B.H. Obama, Address before the UN General Assembly, September 23, 2009                                                                                                      [emphasis, smb]

And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Genesis 11:6

It might do well to recall that mankind’s problems began in a garden.

Sue Bradley, September, 2009  [email protected] [email protected]

Technical contributions, Charles Manske

All references will be fully cited at the conclusion of this series.

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