So. It’s been revealed, er, actually divulged by ‘art world sources’ that the anonymous buyer of Picasso’s Femmes d’Alger is Qatar’s former prime minister (and billionaire) Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani. The painting this month set a new world record for art sold at an auction with its $179 million final bid.
Should the news that the noveau riche are art buyers surprise us? It happened during the Late Renaissance when the Medici family’s patronage encouraged a flowering of the arts in Florence, Italy. And. Does not even the Kardashian family look to art to legitimize their claim to fame (which, forgive me, really hinges on Kim’s notoriety rather than any actual achievement).
In any case, the mind boggles. With $179 million, I could definitely
1 hire a cook for the rest of my life so I won’t need to plan meals, buy groceries and slave over the stove for hours on end (with three boys, food gets easily consumed in our house)
2 eat out for the rest of my life, thereby, erasing the need for a cook to fulfill my responsibilities in the kitchen
3 hire a cleaner to clean the bathrooms/toilets, vacuum all the carpeted bedrooms, dust all the books in the bookshelves, iron the clothes, etc …
4 hire a maid to gather all the scattered books in the house and return them to their respective bookshelves
5 read more (my bedside bookshelf is bulging with books to be read)
6 write more (I write posts in my head while washing dishes, loading the washer, etc … only for said posts to be forgotten once I sit in front of the PC)
7 travel to all the art museums in the world and
6 buy the art of a living but obscure artist to bolster his/her confidence and encourage him/her to produce more art
But then. I. Do not. Have $179 million. Which is why – for the past few years – I made do with trolling through Art.com whenever I need to relax and the mind cannot absorb a literary work or art. Unfortunately, the site has been blocked by the authorities here for reasons unknown. That is why I am now making do with ogling the items at Cole Haan’s Memorial Daysale and Dooney & Bourke’s Four Days of Summer Fun sale. And dreaming of handbags instead of art with a capital A.
That last line from my last post seems appropriate as an opening to this next post because millenia has not changed the basic nature of things. People are born. Then die. And in between go through a million motions and emotions that transcend time. Today, I read Peter Chin’s conclusion that “disappointment serves a vital purpose because it is a sharp reminder of a truth that we too often forget: that it is God alone who can fill the enormous empty spaces in our lives” in his post When Disappointment Is The Best Thing For Us and immediately recognized Augustine’s voice thundering through the ages in his Confessions: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
That Chin’s article so resonated with me is not surprising. Currently, the books atop my bedside drawer are Larry Crabb’s Finding God and John Ortberg’s The Me I Want To Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You. And. I’ve disclosed to the hubby “I feel like I’m losing control of my life” even as everything falls into place (for example, I now have homeschooling pals in our desert town whereas before there were none). But. Since our house has been perpetually messy ever since the children arrived, he believes it’s just a matter of not having paid help to relieve me of my domestic duties to make more time for homeschooling two kids. I don’t disabuse him of this thought. After all, it would be unfair to expect a male to comprehend a female’s heart and mind 100% of the time.
Larry Crabb, who writes from personal experience, declares:
… sound theology leads us through our pain to a fuller experience of Christ, and therefore of hope and love … If we numb our souls to the ongoing struggles with sin and disappointment that fallen people living in a fallen world experience, then our time in the Bible will yield puffy knowledge rather than liberating truth.
I don’t know. Perhaps not going outside to garden is a factor. Perhaps my youngest becoming more independent in thoughts and action is another. Maybe having more time to ponder our situation (the price of oil rose from last night’s $45 to $48 this morning) is another factor. Whatever. Finding joy in the present is a struggle.
That is why I am so thankful for tender mercies like roses outside my front door, sunflowers that reach the sky, and friends old and new. Plus. A youngest son who asks (while you’re drinking coffee to clear your head which is still fogged up from lack of sleep) “Mom, why don’t you have any wrinkles?” and a daughter who replies “Only grandmothers have wrinkles!“
This morning I hung up ironed trousers in our bedroom while thinking “This is what comes from having a wish fulfilled.” Fact is, the trousers I wear at present would have fallen from my waist when I started working life. Then, I wondered “What would it be like to live in airconditioned comfort 24/7? It must be wonderful not to sweat!” Now I know. And with it comes another depressing perception “I’ll never be thin again” which, really, should not be depressing at all because for the first half of my life I yearned for a wider waistline. Indeed, remaining slender seems like a ridiculous goal in light of this reddit thread asking “What do insanely poor people buy that ordinary people know nothing about?“
That reddit thread may just be the answer. Because. I’ve truly been pondering on what a rainbow life it would be if I weren’t such a complicated thinking and feeling machine. By all accounts, I should not even come close to feeling disappointment. A loving (and faithful!) husband. Four healthy children. A garden. What else can I ask for? Yet. Finding joy in the present remains a struggle.
Both Crabb and Chin point towards finding God as the answer to feelings of disappointment (and whatever else one might feel). According to Crabb, it’s a long and difficult though ultimately fulfilling journey. Which. I suspect. I’ve only just begun.
Yesterday, the analogies between Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard and the exchange between Guinevere and King Arthur in Camelotswirled around my head. Could the simple life unlock the key to resolve these feelings of angst?
What else do the simple folk do? They must have a system or two They obviously outshine us at turning tears to mirth Have tricks a royal highness is minus from birth
What, then, I wonder, do they To chase all the goblins away? They have some tribal sorcery you haven’t mentioned yet Oh, what do simple folk do to forget?
lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe
According to King Arthur, his subjects either whistled, sang or danced. Thomas Gray’s poem, on the other hand, comes closer to describing a situation the hubby and I aspire to in our retirement years as it ruminates over the plain comforts, quiet felicity and gladness of heart of rural folk.
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;
Chill Penury repressed their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
So. When Chin reflected on his feelings of disappointment after he became a published author, I immediately grasped the point he was making. Half a lifetime ago, I had to drag myself from bed to attend the graduation ceremony for our department. Only the thought that it was my parents’ proudest day (their eldest was graduating from college – hurray!) pushed me to get dressed and travel to my alma mater. I remember feeling surprised to find all my electrical engineering classmates chattering excitedly while dressed in black togas. To them, it was a gateway to another world. For me, it was the end of a period and the beginning of another of which there was no certainty.
Today, disappointment still rears its ugly head in the minutiae of everyday life. A few days ago, the hubby demanded “So many people have less than you do! Why must you hanker after the impossible?” For a while I struggled to maintain silence. Fridays are always stressful for us. On that afternoon, he had a sermon to preach. I had a celebratory get-together to attend. And a house to prepare for worship service. But. I could not help it. Though I’ve learned after nearly 20 years of marriage that it is best to lose a fight to win the battle, I blurted back “They’re not impossible dreams!“
I hate it when my children’s mind wander off in another direction during our classes. What I don’t tell them, though, is that I’m just as guilty as they are of having a brain that makes connections all the time. Take last December, for example.
The weeks preceding Christmas saw my mind preoccupied with thoughts of John Stamos and my upcoming root canal appointment at the dentist. If you know John Stamos, congratulations! That means you’re my age, you watch re-runs of Full House or you rock – whatever! Me, I can’t help but remember a television episode (of what I can’t recall) wherein the girl rejects John Stamos’ request for another date with the rejoinder “I’ve had root canals that were less painful.”
Ouch. If John Stamos were to ask me for a date, I remember thinking back then, my reply would be an instant “Yes!” and I’d be in heaven. Alas, I’m not even a distant spark in his past whereas he has been resurrected in my memory due to my need for a root canal. And so it goes …
Why? Because. The story centers around the Thanksgiving celebration of a girl and her grandmother who live near a cranberry bog in New England. And therein lies the connection. Barry Manilow had a hit song during my youth about a Weekend in New England. Right now, I can’t help but hum the refrain while washing the dishes, cooking, checking the children’s assignments. And so it goes ….
PS: Apparently, I’m not the only one who makes connections across time. Writing for the Harvard Magazine, Olivia Munk shares how a recent lecture by Howard Gardner (Hobbs professor of cognition and education at Harvard Graduate School of Education) on “Beauty” made her recall a high school lesson on the French revolution. Read about it here.