I am in a classical art gallery in London and
the portraits all blur into a crowd of static, monotonous
faces I could not possibly care any less about.
I was not there; my life was just fine
before I learned about Madame Pompadour
(though hearing a tour guide attempt to narrate for children a kosher version of her affair with Louis XV was entertaining).
I am full of disdain as the paintings
look at me
looking at them
looking at me. I want to shout
how very little I care.
The tour guide points out details, like
the way the apple alludes to Eden, or
the way the buckle on a shoe obviously points to an international trade agreement, or
the way everything is phallic, really. Everything.
But the more they break it down, the more
they “deconstruct” the brushstrokes, the more
it all falls apart, to me.
What is left after all the explanations and historical references and elitist points of trivia?
Are we better off for having understood it all? Knowing it all?
For conquering the piece and being able to move on because now we get it-
got it? Good.
Take a step back, admit defeat-
or redefine success.
Maybe you understand the relationship between that painting and Greek mythology, but
what if you made the choice to let that not matter, for like
five minutes, maybe…
I want art to be awe-full, evocative, wordless-
because I want it to speak for the insufficiency of words,
as much as I do love words. But they will never be enough
to encompass the feeling of encountering Sunflowers or Olive Trees–
or sunflowers or olive trees, for that matter.
Look- with every ounce of due credit to my art history major friends,
Purim is when we stop breaking it down, and start un-knowing.
Knowing that we’ll never know, and that knowledge is hardly the point.
Remember that time in the Garden, dear?
When we just had to know good and evil and break apart
Before the moment was ripe.
When we could have been the dancing figures in Keith Haring’s murals
pulsing energy so loud it need not make noise,
synthesizing dissonant elements
like the way scalding water sometimes feels cold when you test it at first.
We have all year to break it down, to engage in Talmudic discourse about
the exact meaning of a word like אחשדרפנים
and then agree to disagree-
But just for now, just for Purim-
be amazed. Be amazing.
Be dumbfounded, be found dumb and clueless and joyful,
shocked out of your numbness,
sensorily overloaded out of your reductive tendencies.
Stop trying to get it, and let yourself be gotten.