Via Basel: A Trifecta or a Hat-Trick?

Art by Page Tsou

Chicago has been the object of my affection for close to five decades, since destiny brought us together in August of 1973 when I arrived to start my orthopedic residency. The relationship has not been easy, since we both have imperfections. However, we’ve weathered them together, and our bond is now stronger than ever. And by the way, in spite of many people’s complaints, I myself love Chicago’s weather, for its lack of monotony. And now for the uplifting news: an interesting trifecta, or hat-trick if you prefer, is about to happen in this windy city over the next 15 months or so. Each has to do with a different realm–sports, religion, and politics. NASCAR, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and the Democratic National Convention are all coming to Chicago.

While Chicago has been a sports kind of town for more than a century with baseball, then football, basketball, and hockey, car racing was not among its main attractions. That is about to change as soon as July when NASCAR will have its first-ever Cup Series street race, and it will happen in downtown Chicago, along the shores of lake Michigan. Yes, it has been controversial, and not many downtowners appreciated it. But it is historic, gutsy, and risky. I am reminded of the Monaco Grand Prix, set in the principality of Monaco in southern France on the Mediterranean. Car racing enthusiasts will be racing to my hometown to witness and be part of this thrilling event. So much for sports aficionados.

Now if you are into the sport of politics, and who isn’t these days, one way or another, then you have to wait till August of next year for the Democratic National Convention prior to elections of 2024. If you’re not on that side of the aisle, after attending the Republican one in Milwaukee in July, just drive south for 90 miles to Chicago for a short visit and a change of scenery. The Midwest will be the center of the nation’s attention for these two months. 

Both of these above events are well known and publicized. Most likely you’re not aware of the next one. If you have any interest in the religions of the world then be ready this August 2023, when representatives of most of the world religions will gather in McCormick Place for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. This interfaith celebration and discussion has its roots in Chicago going back to the 1893 Chicago World Fair, when this global city hosted the first-ever convention of the world religions. The last time Chicago hosted it was in 1993 on its 100 years anniversary. I happen to have a personal connection to this occasion by way of my great friend and spiritual mentor for 25 years Br. Joe Kilikevice. After attending it, he launched the Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality in nearby Oak Park, Illinois and has been active in promoting this worthy goal of  dialogue and cooperation among the many diverse spiritual traditions on this planet. I plan to go the World’s Religions convening and welcome you to attend, too. 

I can’t discuss the unique aspect of Chicago without mentioning my favorite small museum, the American Writers Museum. The only one of its kind in the whole USA, it’s a hidden jewel along the Cultural Mile. Which also serves to prove my point: whatever your passion is, you will find a place in this great city to participate and indulge in it. 

Photo by Tom Pazol, Millennium Fall Colors

Just one more item. We have a new mayor, Brandon Johnson, with lots of enthusiasm, charisma, and hope. I wish him and our city the best.      


Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Christopher Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, writing, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now, semi-retired, he is exploring new avenues in medicine, education, public speaking, teaching, and social engagement.

Via Basel: Thanksgiving 2013

Shem Center for Interfaith Spirituality

Parliament of the World’s Religions

2 responses to “Via Basel: A Trifecta or a Hat-Trick?”

  1. Thanks Basel for your nicely written article. You are getting really good at it. Chicago is never boring! The Parliament of the World’s Religions will offer a wide variety of events for its participants, from Indigenous People’s rituals to academic papers. Thanks for mentioning Shem Center. We are offering a workshop on our guided meditation, “The Circle of Respect,” one that welcomes a rich diversity of people beyond the differences that so often divide us. Establish and agree upon respect as the context for any gathering and see how differently things go.

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