2.04.2006

Welcome to God's Waiting Room

Your faithful correspondent is here in Martin County, Florida, for the opening of BaptizedPagan's Trends Among Old People desk. As far as I can tell from my parents' retirement park, some of the major trends include a penchant for nautically-themed housewares, a strong dislike of uppityness, and a 1995-like relationship to the internet. I'm writing these posts on (shudder) dial-up, so there won't be many fun links to other places.

In all seriousness, it's a really nice place, the weather, despite some rain, is fabulous compared to Boston, it's great to see my parents (though I am slightly unused to being around them so much of the time...), and I saw my first alligator yesterday -- so I really can't complain.

I'm having a slightly difficult time taking off my amateur anthropologist hat; the retirement community resembles Golden Girls, Survivor, and a healthy dose of Machiavelli's Prince all rolled into one. This is a place where every move one makes is watched, not by some Leviathan, but by the constant presence of The Park. How big your shed is, how new your car is, how successful your children are -- these all form the ingredients for one's social standing. My parents are, luckily, young enough and smart enough to be more amused by the phenomenon, and yet aware enough to not do anything foolish like point out that the emperor has no clothes. One of the most interesting things down here is how sharply the various social and service organizations in the park are organized along gender lines. There's a men's club and a women's club, with rather sharply defined jobs and tasks, and ne'er the two shall meet. Since much of the park is older, this may be the dying gasps of the 1950s, played out in Floridian mobile homes...one becomes quite grateful to have grown up slightly removed from then, and anyone who is trying to study why the reaction in the 1960s was so strong should spend three months in southern Florida...

One other highlight: before leaving the area around the airport in West Palm Beach on Thursday, we visited the Norton Museum of Art. Great collection, especially for such a small museum. And, here in the middle of relatively nowhere, there's a great temporary exhibition of four paintings by Damien Hirst commissioned by Carlo Bilotti, themed around the four evangelists. They're great, crazy, Hirst-like structures, over 10 feet high and covered in dirt; each painting has a page or two from the Gospel at the center of the painting, with dirt and paint forming a cross-like (sometimes) mark around the center of the painting. His trademark butterflies and some razor blades and drugs round out the whole. (My theory: the razor blades and drugs, placed at the very lower corner of each painting, are Hirst's equivalent of an artist painting himself in at the foot of the cross; Hirst has shown himself, relatively insignificant but definitely there, in some sort of relationship, however tenuous, with the Gospel event.) But the dirt-mark in the middle is luminous; it's as though the pages of the Bible are ground zero of a small bomb, leaving the scorch-mark of God's presence on the otherwise stable solid background. Almost like the marks left on walls after the nuclear flash of Hiroshima, indicating that, minutes before, a person had existed there, these paintings convey some of the intensity of God's entry into the world in a thoroughly non-traditional idiom. For those of us allergic to fire and brimstone language, and accustomed to view God more through the lens of felt banners, it's a great way of showing how non-customary something like the incarnation, the entry of God into God's creation, really is -- and how dangerous.

2 comments:

Dan said...

Nautical themes! See any good ties?

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