Thursday, October 2, 2008


today, during my rep visit to the whitfield school, i was struck by a beautiful painting done by a student.

i had come a little early so i had to wait in the front hallway for someone from the college center to come and greet me. as i waited, i noticed the piece hung on the right wall near the front entrance, so i wandered over to observe more closely. once i started to look, i couldn't seem to stop.

when you first perceive a piece of art, your initial reaction is never intellectual, it's emotional. or at least, it's my opinion that if the art truly came from the soul, then that's what you see when you regard it. but it is always so, i think.

this was the sort of painting that you fall into. the brushstrokes are wide and curving outward, the body of the painting a range of deep midnight blue to aquamarine, as if the whole canvas encompasses the world and all of existence-and so this one did, actually.

it was a painting of all the major world religions, in harmony with each other. unfolded upon this blue-mother-sea canvas were six petals, like the peals of an orange, with a depiction of a mosque or temple or church, each in its own holy shrine. the holy places were all connected by a thick stretch of blue beneath them, and by intricate lines that wound around the painting and in between. the tips of each petal blurred alternately from white into yellow, orange and brown, or from white into blue and black: the spectrum of day and night. the whole seemed to express the sacred unity of purpose underlying all faiths, but the experience of beholding it i really only describe feebly. next to the painting the student had written a description and interpretation of her belief that every faith is essentially the same. i couldn't believe that a high school student had done this.

i had to tear my eyes away from looking, because at some point i felt that even though i were legitimately supposed to be entertaining myself, i had somehow sunken into a reverie that would have made it extremely difficult to suddenly spring back into my extroverted side as soon as my guidance counselor walked around the corner.

but i thought about that painting all day today, and about the relative idealism of a teenager; would she practice that wide-spreading love that we feel so freely when we're younger, before we're tested by all of the hypocrisy and cynicism of the world? how will we practice the values that we claim to believe?
i saw eternity the other night
like a great ring of pure and endless light,
all calm, as it was bright,
and round beneath it, time is hours, days, years
driven by the spheres
like a vast shadow mov'd, in which the world
and all her train were hurl'd...

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it's not just for the classroom!