AGAINST SUCH THINGS

30x30 Acrylic 2011


A constant companion for the past number of years has been Rainer Maria Rilke's Book of Hours. In the final section, The Book of Poverty and Death, are three verses which form the background of a meditation resulting in this painting.
They are:
    “...Their dying is long and hard to finish: hard to surrender what you never received.
    Their exit has no grace or mystery. It's a little death, hanging dry and measly like a fruit inside them that never ripened.

    God, give us each our own death, the dying that proceeds from each of our lives: the way we loved, the meanings we made, our need.

    For we are only the rind and the leaf. The great death, that each of us carries inside, is the fruit. Everything enfolds it." III, 4-7

A companion to the passage from Rilke has been a few verses from the Bible found in the book of Galatians 5:22 & 23:
    “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

As I spent time with this passage, the interrelatedness of the fruit of the spirit, as listed, began to take on a more dynamic movement. They all spin into and out of love, which became the center of the painting. Joy, peace, faithfulness, and kindness make up the four corners; they seem so solid. The other four—patience, gentleness, goodness and self-control seem to be natural outcomes of the others.

The script in raised text is the phrase "against such things there is no law." As people of faith, these traits are a part of our being, though our experience of them will always be incomplete and unfolding. The phrase “against such things” took on deeper levels of meaning as I began to fit it together with the law of death—each one of us will die, but the fruit of our lives will remain. Death cannot and will not stop this fruit. In fact, for the fruit to really fall ripe and juicy from the tree it will take death to set the seed free. 

Initially I began the painting as a mandala with the center colors reminiscent of a brilliant fire of love. That eventually changed as the painting progressed, becoming hidden under layers of text and color. The final result is a painting full of movement, with a sensation of swirling into and out of the center, stabilized by the clearer, brighter corners. The colors are jewel-like and ever changing as light moves across the surface. At times it is possible to see down through the layers to the underlying foundation of the painting, while in other lighting, only the surface level is visible.

While that brilliant fire of love has been obscured by many layers of paint, I remain strong in my conviction that love must be the center of our lives. If our faith has any meaning, then that meaning has to be expanding love—toward God, toward others and toward ourselves—for without loving ourselves we are not free to love others. It is love which becomes the stamp of the Spirit in us and through us and it is that which will remain long after we are gone.




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