Somewhere yesterday I came across this saying: "I have two doctors, my left foot and my right foot." It struck me as wisdom worthy of becoming proverbial.
According to at least one source, these were actually the words of historian George Macaulay Trevelyan. According to Trevelyan's grandson, "His idea of a day's walk was 25 miles." Even at a good clip, that's about 6 hours of walking!
Trevelyan considered that poetry, history and solitary walks were among the most important things in life. Truly a man after my own heart! (our own hearts?)
For a few panicked moments this morning, I thought perhaps I'd lost track of Anecdotal Evidence forever. It's a blog about books and poetry and modern life, all informed by the the writer's love as well as his general crabbiness. Patrick Kurp's politics are not to my liking, but I share his devotion to the life of reading and thought.
I've been intending each day to post some excellent Lenten artwork but just not been able. Researching this area has, however, led me to discover Quentin Massys, a Flemish painter of the 1400s. I love his clear lines and well-chosen details and rich colors.
It would be hard, for instance, to find a more beautiful blue than used for the cape in this Ecce Homo.
Lent started several weeks ago and Holy Week approacheth. Yet I've posted nothing here to remind you of the marvelous art that commemorates the events of this liturgical season.
Just at the moment I don't have time to do it right, but let me signal my good intentions by alerting you to the panels on which Duccio di Buonensigna has depicted the events of Christ's Passion, on the back of his extraordinary Maesta.
I came accidentally upon this site offering a Feminine Tao. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it, but its quality seems obvious and its worth equally apparent.
The Feminine Tao is hosted at Early Women Masters. Again, I don't think I really understand the intent or organization of the site. And yet it's so appealing that I think it well worth mentioning here.
It strikes me that many arguments, especially within a family, are simply about who we are, and how someone else wants to change that. Perhaps it isn't convenient for them to be you; perhaps you are not who they dreamed of having as a son, daughter, brother, father, whomever. Perhaps you stand for something they fear. Perhaps you merely represent something for which they have contempt. (Possibly both of the last two are the same. I'm not sure.)
Much of the pain that I have experienced in recent days, and which I have found so crippling, goes back decades to exactly such an argument within my own family. They did not like what I was; could not see any use in it; feared it; scorned it. And therefore scorned me.
I came across the novel "A Thing of Beauty" for the first time only last year. It was written by A.J. Cronin, an author whom I like quite a lot, and published in 1955.
The novel is about a young man whose parents want him to follow in his father's footsteps as a respectable country Church of England pastor. He cannot. He simply cannot. He needs to draw and paint, and cannot do anything else. They cut him off and, in time, essentially disown him.
One sentence in the novel keeps coming to mind as I struggle to understand my own situation. It comes near the end, years after the young man left home, when it's already been years since he's had any real contact with his family.
He meets with his sister, who still lives in the old family home where she looks after their aged father. The sister says to him:
If you'd only been a good son, stayed at home, gone into the Church and helped Father, kept control over things, and over Mother, we'd still all be happy at Stillwater. You'd be loved and respected . . . "
He interrupts and says:
Instead of hated and despised.
And that's exactly how I feel: hated and despised. Actually, I feel more peace now, having recognized that fact, having accepted those very words, than I have at any time since that awful moment on Tuesday morning when I opened that email.
I should add that my sin was never that of being an artist. It's something much less, really. As near as I can tell, it's just the sin of having wanted a better life, a higher one, if you will. The sin of thinking that philosophy and the arts deserve a prominent place on the spectrum, rather than being given the back of the hand. Of wanting my days to be infused with poetry and the beautiful. Of preferring the high over the low and, sometimes, even over the middle. Of believing that questioning and careful exploration and the use of the best logic we can manage are preferable to superstition and dismissal and the acceptance of authority qua authority.
I'm willing, I suppose, to continue feeling hated and despised for those things. (Sometimes, though, the pain is renewed. And I do notice that years of this have exacted their toll.)
How do we heal from cruelty? from mean words, said in a deliberate attempt to injure?
That is my question for today.
In part, it seems that we must simply let a certain amount of time go by. After all, when we are injured physically, that is nearly always the case. Even a superficial wound will disappear only over a few days. A deeper one will take a good deal longer.
We heal, I guess, by remembering that we have recovered from similar, or worse, events in the past.
Etc., etc. I am not, however, consoled by any of these thoughts. A betrayal takes longer, I suppose, than an injury not accompanied by betrayal.
Someone close to me has recently lost her husband, who was also her best friend. Grief, then, has been on my mind in recent days. I'm again struck, as I have been after my own bereavements, that one does not want to "feel better" after a loss. One wants the lost person or object or opportunity to be restored. That is all one wants. Not relief from pain, but for there to be no cause of the pain.
I suppose my pain in this instance is compounded by grief.
And that, I suppose, is another way that we heal -- by identifying the various strands of the painful situation, and by naming them.
I feel somehow, though, that this person's wickedness, her sheer evil, means for me that it is time to stop even trying to stem the tide of criticism and dislike and hatred. I stand engulfed. Having struggled so hard, for so very, very long, I cannot imagine continuing that effort. I have, in the end, simply been defeated.
It has become clear that I will need to blog elsewhere for a while. On the one hand, I cannot continue here for the present because I no longer feel safe here. On the other, I need to continue in order to diminish my pain and feel hope again. (And to maintain some connection with those of you who have been so kind as to write to me.)
I'm looking into some of the possibilities. To those of you who have been so good as to follow StB in the past, if you would like to know my next location, please send an email to the indicated address. Thank you for everything.
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I am trying to remember this:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." — Martin Luther King Jr.
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." - 2 Timothy 1:7.