Wednesday, September 16, 2015

expand your horizons, claude

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.
--G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.

I took Nathan to the Met.
Nathan and I wandered through the Impressionists; through the Seurats, and the Pissarros, and the Degas's.
And then you wander to the sanctuary of Monet, and it's
Claude only paints his water lilies.
Two hundred fifty paintings of water lilies.
Claude. Why won't you branch out, Claude.
Look at something other than water lilies, Claude, paint something different: maybe sunflowers?
Oh. Good.
Oh, Claude, oh that's so nice
You painted a lovely bridge, Claude. It's a very lovely bridge. So good to see you painting things other than--


more water lilies
under the bridge.


Oh, Claude went to Rouen.
There aren't any water lilies there.
Perhaps he'll explore! He'll push the envelope! He'll develop down different paths, and perhaps paint a couple in the square, a romantic sunset over the fields, maybe even a Still Life With Baguette.

Claude is at the Rouen Cathedral.
He keeps painting the one side: the one side of the Rouen Cathedral.
There is more than one side to the Rouen Cathedral.
But Claude only paints one façade of the Rouen Cathedral.
He paints it during the twilight hours, he paints it at midday, he paints it in "dull weather," he paints it in the gloaming light, he paints it at sunrise, he paints it in high midsummer.
Over thirty different paintings of the same Cathedral façade.

This is the water lilies all over again, isn't it?

But I think Claude is telling us something here.
I think he is telling us that there is something to revisiting a sight over and over again.
Perhaps there are a million possible paintings of water lilies.
One for each new day that rises on the water lilies.
And if you are young enough and full of awe enough, you can find all the wonder of the world in just one water lily pond.

I was talking to Jenna.
I write the same thing over and over again, she said.
But she doesn't. She walks the same story over and over, and, just like Monet, she finds different shades and hues in each new set of water lilies, and different patterns of light hitting the Rouen Cathedral's face.

They say that there are just seven story lines we follow, though.
Perhaps we are just walking the same story over and over again:
Maximilian Kolbe writes that "everywhere in this world we notice action, and the reaction which is equal but contrary to it; departure and return; going away and coming back; separation and reunion. The separation always looks foreword to union."
All things are going forth and coming back, endlessly. There is, perhaps just one story. And it has many variations on one them, with myriad epiphanies throughout the world.
Eternity is not an infinity of new things to be discovered, but One Thing, pondered and written and praised and submerged in ceaselessly, discovering new depths and new beauties the further up and further in we go.

How can Truth be like this, Nathan? Constant revelations and surprises, and new depths and wonders being revealed. It's too much for the human heart to hold.

Perhaps Claude is closest of us to eternity: and so he responds as all of us one day will learn to do: pondering the beauty he is surrounded by over and over, and rejoicing in its ever-increasing loveliness by rendering it anew each day.

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