The Middle Way

Tibet via North Philadelphia December 20, 2014 21:21

There's no such thing as East Philadelphia.

On the east side of Broad Street, in North Philadelphia, a spirit glides through the neighborhoods leaving hand-crafted directions to the home of the Dalai Lama. I discovered the street sign shown above, with the word "Tibet" improvised from metallic decals, near the corner of 5th and Spring Garden. Another smaller sign, hand-written in white paint on a rusty piece of iron, was tied to a bush in a small, shady, abandoned lot used as a summer respite by locals.

My gut tells me the signs are half art, half reminder and half hopeful introduction.

The neighborhood is poor, but changing quickly, surrounded to the south and east by gentrified blocks. Perhaps the artwork is designed to offer inspiration to neighbors faced with the need to move because their homes are no longer affordable. The large sign actually faces east. The inset faces west. I believe this represents a choice on behalf of the ghost to let people know that it really doesn't matter which direction they choose so long as they choose to embrace compassion and mindfulness. My inner cynic, the one that struggles with compassion and mindfulness, wonders if I'm seeing ingenious guerrilla marketing for a hip-hop music label or a hipster bar. I live with a semi-permanent side-eye. Enlightenment appears to be several light-years away.

The cynic, however, can't hinder the romantic, the searcher, the voyeur -- the imperfect Buddhist. I'm curious if the word "Tibet" has been scrawled inside that pair of old sneakers hanging from the telephone wire. Or, has it been scribbled in wet cement on a block I never walk down? Is there graffiti? Has it been carved in a tree? Was it written on sheet music that's been crumpled and thrown in municipal trash cans all over the city?


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?