Think “Isn’t It Weird…?”

my new tree;-)

Wide awake in the middle of the night, we snacked on handfuls of Chex cereal and indulged in my favorite kind of conversation: “Isn’t it weird that…?” Little did we understand that our late-night conversation would set the theme for the week.

The next night high winds toppled our neighbor’s ENORMOUS aging maple tree into our backyard. The insurance company called it “an act of God.” It is a phrase implying no fault, no responsibility. It just happened. I laughed aloud when, immediately following the “act of God” designation, the insurance adjuster heaped on us a load of legal cautions, new responsibilities (the tree now ‘belonged’ to us), property line designations, and small print reminders meant to minimize financial risk and responsibility to the insurance company. The layers of irony are too many to count though I suppose if wacky preachers can assign responsibility for hurricanes and other natural disasters to the wrath of God, then it is no less ridiculous for insurance companies to invoke the fickleness of God to absolve themselves of liability.

Isn’t it weird that…?

P-Tom reminded us that the “act of God” was that no one was hurt in the tree fall. For P-Tom the act of God was a kind of intervention. A few degrees to the right, a slightly different wind direction, and the tree would have landed on our bedroom. Life does seem fragile by the slightest of degrees. We told people that we were lucky. Intervention? Fortunate? Fate? Design?

Isn’t it weird that…?

We cut a branch from the fallen tree and brought it in the house. It is now our Christmas tree.

Had you asked that branch a week ago if it would ever become a Christmas tree it might have laughed at you.

As a maple branch it had no aspirations or intentions of being wrapped in lights or decorated with silver baubles. In truth, it probably cares little if it makes us laugh or invokes a smile each time we enter the room. But it does. Or, better, we make sense of it that way. Sense making? Story telling? Either way.

Isn’t life weird?

Our work-in-progress

 

 

 

 

 

Make Purple

Polynieces and Eteocles

I dug out an old drawing this morning. I’ve been thinking about it for days and finally decided to heed the impulse and find it. I drew it years ago, a study for a large canvas I intended to execute but the timing wasn’t right or the thought was not complete. I can’t remember. It would have been a statement piece, based on a myth. Polynieces and Eteocles, two brothers fighting for control of the kingdom after the death of their father, Oedipus. They refused to share the riches. They lost sight of the kingdom in their lust for control and killed each other in their battle. Both lost.

I remembered the drawing after reading the daily news. It popped into my head as an image that seemed relevant as I listened to the intensity and insanity of the blues and the reds. These days I hear a lot of rhetoric about what is good for “the American people” and I am certain – it is among the dwindling things I am certain of – that these diverging rhetorical paths are not good for anyone. The kingdom is nowhere to be found, so lost are we in the power struggle, the alternative-truth-games and all of the accompanying hyperbole.

Recently 20 came over for dinner. He read to us a disturbing article from the newspaper and asked, “So, do you think we have it all upside down?” It was, of course, a rhetorical question. The article was from a February 12th issue of The New York Times, Husbands Are Deadlier Than Terrorists, by Nicholas Kristof. It was an appeal to stay focused on what matters in the midst of so many smoke-and-mirror-power-play intentions. It was a plea to not be lost in the diversions:

            “Consider two critical issues: refugees and guns. Trump is going berserk over the former, but wants to ease the rules on the latter….In the four decades between 1975 and 2015, terrorists born in the seven nations in Trump’s travel ban killed zero people in America, according to the Cato Institute. Zero.

            In that same period, guns claimed 1.34 million lives in America, including murders, suicides and accidents. That’s about as many people as live in Boston and Seattle combined.”

           It’s also roughly as many Americans as died in all the wars in American history since the American Revolution….”

There is, admittedly, much to fear in this world but it is rarely where we pin the blame. Insanity almost never recognizes itself.

According to the myth, Oedipus put a curse on his sons. That was the reason they could not peacefully share the rule of the kingdom. It was a curse. They couldn’t help it. So, it was their fate. No lesson learned. No growth possible.

We have a long legacy of using inequity to create and reinforce division. Perhaps that is the curse we inherited? That is the “reason” we cannot find common ground and shared governance? Is it our fate to murder each other and project the danger onto the people least capable of defending themselves: the current wave of immigrants? It seems lazy but certainly appears to be effective.

It might now be time to execute my painting. I’ve lately been focusing on grace and images of internal peace. I seem to be out of accord with the times in which I am living. According to the data we are killing each other faster, more efficiently and more eagerly than any external threat. All the while our ruling class seems singularly devoted to keeping us in primary color-coded camps rather than working with the creative tension that moves divisions in a unified direction. And, we seem singularly devoted to playing along, not a hint of purple to be found.

Art is, after all, an expression of who we are and I can find no other more relevant American image. It will, of course, be a symphony of reds and blues.

 

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