Monday, April 17, 2017

Blocking out the Unwanted Noise That Surrounds Us

Technology can be a great human endeavor  ...  but not always.

Yesterday, Christians across the world observed Easter Sunday, the glorious celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. At the Church of  Saint in Southington, thousands attended one of five Easter Masses, two on the vigil of Easter, and three on Easter morning.  People filled the church and most of the Geraghty Parish Center adjoining the nave, all equipped with high technology computers, cameras, projectors, two huge screens one on each side of the altar and one more reaching those in the Geraghty Parish Center.  The altar was beautifully adorned with lilies and Easter flowers. The liturgy and environment surrounding us and the Choir, complete with brass and percussions, were amazingly majestic and beautiful, befitting this holiest day of the year for Christians. My senses and thoughts ran spiritually and emotionally deep. I felt the sense of the exceptional human effort through faith utilizing technology and the collective talents and spirituality of so many involved in this great service of worship.  My faith and hope in the world were elevated to an exceptional high.

Contrasting with all of the above, permit me to think back to the first few days of this year. Many of us were us declaring New Year’s resolutions?  Remember?  

Within the first week of January, I decided my approach this year would be different. Instead of pledging to end a particular negative habit, vice or quirky characteristic of mine, (one that I might too easily abandon), I committed myself to a personal renewal based on daily prayer and reflection, exploring how I might become a better person.  My spiritual voice immediately translated this to trying to become holier, a person who lives and acts, day by day, on what he believes. I have worked on this before, but I knew that there is ample opportunity for further improvement.

I tried to go back to my root values, examining how I live each day and the obstacles that confront us. I am passionate about what I do. But, I become impatient at stressful setbacks. So, how can I stay focused on finding positive solutions to problems, not finding fault, not on venting in useless and hurtful anger... in short, treating others better!  I was determined to work on forgiveness with its equal partner, justice and move my personal standards higher.

So, I began.  First, as the Season of Lent began, our church prompted us to think about the forty days of Jesus in the desert. The quiet that strengthened him and the continuing temptations of Satan which he summarily disavowed. This inspired my search for a place in the desert away from the din that engulfs us. Not just the physical decibels of noise, but through the receptors of other senses.

English satirist and humanist, Aldous Huxley wrote in 1945 that we live in the “Age of Noise”. Implicating “radio” as a prime culprit, perhaps he had a sense of that which was yet to come. In an essay (Columbia Magazine, Atpril 2017), entitled “The Age of Noise”, Bishop James D. Conley, Diocese of Lincoln, NB, echoes the indictment of Huxley that ‘modernity is the age of noise’.
Had Huxley lived to the 21st century, Conley asserts, he would have seen the phenomenon of noise redoubled and amplified beyond radio to television, to today’s tablets and devices which are laden with distraction everywhere.

Our eyes, ears, and minds are on overload 24/7 with a constant storm of news items, violence, irrelevant streams of information exploding within the privacy of our own thoughts leaving us precious few moments of peace. Our spirit has been invaded by the ‘social’ network, bombarded by anyone in the world who can reach us instantly with tweets and messages of the latest crises in Washington and around the globe.

So, technology can be used for evil purposes, disrespecting and hurting others; And, there is the hacking into our personal privacy and the evil scams happening every day. But it's also the sheer volume of the cacophony wearing at our own thinking process. 

Still, Bishop Conley asserts that we do have a responsibility to be aware of the world and its challenges and to civilly engage in serious discussion of social, political, environmental and humanitarian issues. But living in a moment of uninterrupted urgency has become the tyranny of the immediate

“We are living in a moment where argument precedes analysis.”, Conley proclaims. “Outrage has become ordinary as the accepted response to social issues.”.

Frankly, the unwanted noise has tested my patience because I could see it interrupting my personal quest for peace of mind through the thoughts in my heart. Yes, I have been bumped off my course, lashing out at extreme socio-political hate speak, but these occasions are reinforcing my sense of purpose allowing me to return to my quiet place, my sanctuary, where I may think about how I may reach higher humanitarian standards as per the beatitudes and of the commandment of Jesus to love one another as we love God.  

I have no particular solution to the noise pollution except to say that for each person it can be different.  In my case, I keep working on how to use our technological devices and tools to serve me, not get me off track.   Freedom of Speech is guaranteed by our Constitution. But, how are we using that?

My resolution continues into the Easter Season and through every day of the year. 

The blessings of this Easter Season be with us all.

Tag: Columnist and community service advocate, Dick Fortunato, welcomes comments at

Monday, April 10, 2017

Southington Cultural Arts Center Exceeds Expectations

Mary DeCroce, SoCCA Executive Director

In just six months, the Southington Community Cultural Arts Center has exceeded our expectations, emerged as one of Connecticut’s premier arts centers, said SoCCA Executive Director, Mary DeCroce, noting the invaluable proactive role of residents of Southington and beyond in its success. “SoCCA has sustained itself without dipping into its ‘nest egg’, a prerequisite instituted by the Town to safeguard its future.”    

The initial plan of six years ago was for each space to produce income. That has become a reality.  The diverse handiwork of 50 artists is offered in the Artisans’ Gift Shop, attracts frequent visitors often leaving with a unique gift. Seating sixty comfortably, the Hopko Performance Hall is booked through 2017 for various art exhibits. Local residents, Eric Korp and Aman Herron, are starting a First Friday Drum Circle on April 7th

“The room has hosted bridal showers, birthday and retirement parties such as the thrilling celebration of Eldon Hafford’s retirement from Bread for Life, the Church Women United’s annual luncheon and local board meetings.” DeCroce said.

Upstairs, five studio are rented to local artists: a violin instructor, acrylic painter, calligraphist, photographer, and caricature/cartoonist.  Two classrooms offer instruction in painting, collage, drawing, clay building, fabric art and loom weaving, throughout the day and evening, for people aged 3 and up.  Thirty registered for classes in October. In March, seventy registered.

A long-awaited pottery studio opened in January with 10 wheels for throwing clay, 3 kilns, a glazing station, and area for handbuilding, an ancient ceramic technique in continued use today, often producing exciting creations. SoCCA’s is one of only six studios in the state offering its level of instruction and is believed to be the only arts center with a wheelchair accessible pottery wheel! 

“We currently offer six different pottery classes for ages 8 and older. Local resident, Robert Riggs, who has taught and managed Wesleyan Potters for over 20 years, is a perfect partner of SoCCA as its Pottery studio manager and teacher.”   

Proud of its All Access program, teaching creative skills to adults with intellectual disabilities to reach their full potential and open social connections to community and life skills, 

SoCCA has received grants from such sources as the Bradley Henry Barnes & Leila Upson Barnes Memorial Trust through the Main Street Community Foundation. Participants sell their art products in the SoCCA store and participate in venues throughout the state, including the Apple Harvest Festival and the Big E.  The rapidly growing program now serves adults from The Arc of Southington, those transitioning out of Southington H.S. involved in the STELLAR program, and various DDS (CT Dept of Developmental Services), groups from as far as Torrington, Thomaston and Watertown.

A continuing flow of visitors speak about how needed the Southington Arts Center has proven to be. So say Board members and staff who are amazed at the splendid renovation of Florian Properties, turning a building in deep disrepair into a jewel for our downtown area.

Hitting the ground running, SoCCA is on its way to fulfilling its mission, having created a unique environment where people of all ages, experience, and abilities can imagine, create, exhibit, and welcome the arts into their lives.

The talented and wondrous Marjorie Low, still going strong as Southington's eldest painter and artist at age 96, has a large collection of her life's work and new work on exhibit at SoCCA.  
Low has talents as a writer and other artistic media as well and a special passion for gardening with a unique garden at Spring Lake.   

Notable SoCCA events in April: First Friday Drum Circle, April 7, from 7 to 9 pm. Ages 18 and older. Follow the leader in drumming or bring your own percussion instruments. SACA (Southington Arts and Crafts Assn) Open 96-year olJuried Show: reception, refreshments and on Sunday, April 9 from 1 to 3 pm with awards by Open Juror Jim Laurino. View works throughout the month of Southington’s most active arts association, 60 years young and going strong.Sixty-year-old SACA’s work of all mediums will be exhibited throughout the month. Stop in and listen to SoCCA’s monthly musical on April 21 from 7:30 to 9:30 pm with Blackberry Pines performance of bluegrass, country, and folk, from artists like Patti Griffin, Gillian Welch and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Doors open 7 pm. $10/pp.  Pottery demonstration hosted by SACA Thursday, April 
26 at 6:30 pm.
DeCroce takes a moment at the microphone