Revisions in Renaissance

Christ Supported by Two Angels by Giovanni

Christ Supported by Two Angels by Giovanni

I spent a wonderful day with 3 of my kids at the National Gallery of Art last week. I grew up enjoying Washington’s many museums and galleries, and I’d forgotten how much fun it is to analyze the paintings for their style and content, as well as the hidden historical and mystical references. Not fast-paced like an action movie, but riveting in its own way.

There was great beauty expressed in many of the paintings we saw. The Italian and other European artwork created during the period between the 14th to the 17th century, displays technical brilliance but also an attempt to deal with emotionally challenging parts of human history. I tried to draw the childrens’ attention to pictures that said one thing about an event which we know occurred in a different way. The crucifixion of Jesus is a perfect example.

The Crucifixion by Benvenuto di Giovanni

The Crucifixion by Benvenuto di Giovanni

In this post-Passion of the Christ era, the Italian Renaissance paintings depicting clean, beautiful, pious saints caught up in the rapturous process of Jesus’ crucifixion and death were oddly disquieting for me. The enormity of the lie therein was just too much. This big lie has become a pivotal element of Western Culture. Presenting a gory scene with pristine cleanliness is only valuable symbolism when the underlying truth of the matter is confronted honestly. If not, it’s just a collective hallucination.

How dare European painters make the act of nailing a man to a wooden armature anything other than horrific? The mockery of a trial and the ritual formalities involved in the sentencing are not the issue. Think about the nerves and the skin and the tendons and the bones that were shattered and separated. There would also have been enormous amounts of blood.

From the movie Passion of the Christ b yMel Gibson

From the movie Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson

Without reaching the issue of Christs’ political status among Hebrew men of his time, or his skin color and ethnicity (although that is a big one) or perhaps even his cosmic intervention into humanity’s downward spiral….just think about the blood and the pain and the sacrifice.

I take issue with the way the story is mangled time and again. Titian, Bellini, Francesca. ..the neat, clean presentation of what had to be a monstrously violent, barbaric act. I have read the prophecies of Isaiah and I know of Christ’s experience in the Garden in which he becomes reconciled to his fate. I get it…the martyrdom thing.

Just don’t lie about how bad it really was.

4mac

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I Am Not My Laundry

James Mc Neil Whistler

Arrangement in Gray and Black: James Mc Neil Whistler

Without question motherhood has dominated every thought, every decision and every feeling I have had for the past 22 years. I am one of those women for whom the biological clock was a rhythmic sonic boom rather than a minuscule “tick.” That’s not to say that I went peaceably into the night of ‘conventional’ motherhood.

I won’t tackle the difficult subject of what ‘conventional’ motherhood is. I suspect there is no such thing. Suffice it to say that I am quite familiar with the antibacterial properties of bleach, and I have hosted my share of formal dinner parties complete with china, crystal and silver, but I am living proof that the American image of motherhood and real motherhood do not always converge. Real motherhood is about love, mentoring, guidance, teaching, transmitting values, protecting and caring…and sometimes laundry, dishes and grocery shopping. Martyrdom is not part of the program.

When daily chores became the basis of my performance evaluation, or rather, when I realized that my intrinsic value as a human being was being measured by whether socks were darned and matched, I knew I had a problem.

Performance of practical household tasks does not define a person’s parenting ability any more than education or wealth. If they did, I’d say my ex-husband was a horrible parent for refusing to move furniture or perpetually failing to repair a broken toilet. Preposterous…right? We never contend that only wealthy people should have children, or that no one with a Bachelor’s degree or below should have a family, so surely my ex will never contend to a judge that he should have custody of my children because I was challenged to get his meals on the table when he arrived home from work, or because I didn’t also earn enough money? Did I miss something?

The key to this curse appeared on the day the house was spotless and dinner was “on time.” The trash can was empty and in it’s proper place, and every other source of daily irritation had been pre-emptively addressed. I was dressed up like June Cleaver in blackface, and every child in the family ran from their room to kiss and hug conquering Hero/Dad as he arrived, triumphant, to the abode. Hero/Dad looked around with an angry stare, prepared to condemn, inhaled to let out a yell….but there was nothing to affix his anger onto. He sort of deflated and grumbled through the evening, seemingly frustrated that whatever blanket condemnation he had already concocted in his mind had not been uttered for that day.

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I like the judge who told a conniving husband: “Isn’t it strange that since you no longer want your wife, all of a sudden she can’t do anything right?” Do I get credit for the beauty of the family’s garden with its richly diverse colors and shapes, or for the handcrafted Christmas ornaments, or the school projects I helped with? My ex told a (female) ‘friend’: “The only credit she (me) deserves is for those 4 great children she had.” The ONLY credit?! What..!?

In reality, I am an intelligent, warm, loyal, kind and highly accomplished person, but within my marriage, I was only as good as the burgers I cooked, the kitchen counter I wiped, or the laundry I folded. Everything else about me had to die. Am I bitter? You bet. But bitterness doesn’t define my future.

This post started out on the topic of motherhood. I went off track. The love I have for my 4 children used to spring from the tsunami of love within my marriage. Since that dried up, now I love Donald, Justine, Dominique and Julian in their own right for being the people they have grown to be. Nothing else has changed. 4mac

Children Learn What They Live

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Bah Humbug!

4mac3mamacita

Weaving the disparate strands of my life and belief system has been a challenge this holiday season. 11 months of the year, I can ride comfortably in the gap between society’s standards and my own. At Christmas, however the contradictions between Martha Stewart’s world and Julianne’s are a bit overwhelming. The commercialization of the holiday creates pressure that I resist each year.

Aside from making sure my home is festive, cooking the requisite holiday treats and wrapping and tagging the kids’ gifts, I will try to avoid the trite holiday rituals and commercialism of Christmas in order to focus on what feels real to me. My childrens’ excited smiles, the spiritual harmony associated with the advent of Christ, and the warm greetings offered by random strangers every time the words: “Merry Christmas” are uttered are the things that get me into the Christmas spirit.

I may never visit a nearby Lexus dealership at Christmas, and that Mercedes Benz with the huge bow on it belongs to my neighbor. I am not expecting a gift of a carat or more, and I’m okay with that. What I want for Christmas, and what I want to give to others…is a reflection of the healing power of Christ and the universal love he ushered into the world. Those are the real gifts of the season. Last time I checked, those things are still free.

What’s Love Got to do with It?

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Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.

Zora Neale Hurston

For the past few months I have evaluated a number of romantic relationships  in my life.  Being the jump-in-and-drown type, I usually decide against playing it cool, so I fling all of my emotions against the wall, assuming some of them will stick to my opponent/object/victim, and accordingly, receive the messy result I deserve.

Case closed.

Relationships, when they work, tend to reflect a dominant positive trait shared between the couple that allows each of them to complement the other.  In the good times, each person feels free to grow and develop as an individual while honoring the bond they share.

I had that once.  At least I thought I did.

But then I woke up from the dream.  I found myself tied to someone I didn’t know, who I found really didn’t like me very much.  Or himself.  Instead of complementing each other, we had really established a co-dependence on the appearance of a loving relationship.  We portrayed the characters of Claire and Cliff Huxtable without realizing it and found ourselves adrift.

So what do I jump into next?  My girlfriends say:  “Hey, do you.”  I hear that.  ‘Doing me’ means I tighten up every part of my life; from new job/business, new house/living space, new parenting techniques and new relationships.  I got it.  I get it.  I will pull away from the pier and set sail on a new journey in life, knowing that the ‘security’ of old relationships was just an illusion.

The task of cutting an undefined path is scary.  A male friend challenged me, saying:  “Don’t you want to see just how bad you really are?”  Of course I do.  But I also want to give an honorable sendoff to the protected, tradition-driven princess I used to be.

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Faith of Our Fathers

I feel afraid.

I want to write about the fact that Barack Obama’s candidacy for President is an opportunity to honor the very last message uttered publicly by Dr. Martin Luther King:

“Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., Mason Temple Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968

Dr. King was assassinated approximately 24 hours after he uttered these words.

I want to write about Americas’ promise and the ripeness of this moment to fullfill part of our human destiny and ascend beyond divisions and group differences. I want to write about each person’s love for their fellow man and the inherent goodness that God has bestowed on each of us. I want to expound on the creative solutions to the economic crisis that America will devise in the future. Unfortunately, creeping nihilism, mixed with my usual angst have conspired to force me to confront a monstrous truth. There is still a deep, long vein of racial hatred in this country.

America sells itself as a meritocracy. The idea of pulling oneself up from the bootstraps and being rewarded for talent and hard work are central themes in our belief system. No problem. If the current Presidential race were based on pure merit, however, the right would not resort to conjecture about Obama’s religion, or his parentage or any other issue than his ability. Hatred is the origin of that line of inquiry.

WOL Radio has the sad duty to announce that at 6:01 p.m., Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee. We repeat, today at approximately 6:00 p.m., Dr. Martin Luther King was fatally shout outside his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.”

In my 7 year old world, at 7:00 p.m. April 4, 1968, I felt that hate. Hatred reached into my living room, stopped me from doing homework, and hit me in the face. Hard. It was personal, and I could envision the shooter gloating and bragging to his friends about what he had just done. I felt as if He’d shot me and every other person in my community. In the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, the graphic coverage of the Vietnam War, and visions of the Civil Rights struggle, grief, loss, anger, and confusion all worked in unison to derail my belief in the opportunities of tomorrow…at least for a while. For years, I was wracked by fear that the country would change and that the government would cease to exist. When I discussed these fears with my Dad, he looked at me and said: “Don’t be afraid, everything will be allright.”

I don’t believe that America will have another day like April 4, 1968, but I do see the storm clouds of division tearing at the fringes of the country. The difference between 1968 and today, among other things, is that Barack Obama is not a black candidate for President, he is the duly selected nominee of a major party who is black. His candidacy alone perhaps fullfills part of King’s dream.

The Presidential race is becoming more hotly contested as we speak, and candidates and pundits alike have made some startling statements. America has or should have moved beyond hateful rhetoric. None of us should be exposed to ‘leaders’ talking about who is “un-American” or who is “patriotic”. It is irresponsible and insulting. The economic crisis of this time requires Americans to unite behind the best candidate and forge ahead with unity, regardless of race, or class or gender.