Chronicles in Ordinary Time 17: This is what I am here to teach—a mystery!

 

 

As I write this, I’m watching a biography of Audrey Hepburn. Watching the images go by on the screen, there are so many that are familiar. I illustrated a biography of hers several years ago; a ‘work for hire’ job for which I was paid; but never saw in print. One of my projects that did not go well. Portions of the illustrations went well, but overall, the book’s illustrations flopped. As usually happens when I illustrate a book, I became immersed in her life, searching the Internet for photos, and watching her films; all in a space of a few weeks. Watching her story after all these years is a strange déjà vu.
Judy and I were on our way to Denver, Colorado, to attend Rob’s graduation from Johnson & Wales University. I planned on working on the illustrations with my portable drawing board, scanning the drawings at Kinko’s, and manipulating them on my laptop. My laptop decided to crap out on me during the trip; and most of the illustrations had to get finished after we returned home, by working 16 hours a day for 2 weeks, in order to meet my deadline. As it happens whenever I have to work in a rush, things did not go well, and I had no time for making better versions of the images… I delivered my illustrations on time, I got paid, but received little satisfaction from the project.

    “All of life is a mystery, but the answer to the mystery is outside ourselves, and not inside. You can’t go on peeling yourself like an onion, hoping that when you come to the last layer, you will find what an onion really is. The mystery of an onion is still unexplained, because like man, it is the issue of an eternal creative act. I stand in God’s shoes, but I can’t tell you any more. Don’t you see? This is what I am here to teach—a mystery! People who demand to have all of creation explained from beginning to end are asking the impossible. Have you ever thought that by demanding to know the explanation for everything are committing an act of pride?  We are limited creatures. How can any one of us encompass infinity?”

Pope Kiril I, The Shoes of the Fisherman; Morris L. West

…I got paid, but received little satisfaction from the project… I wanted a ‘do-over’, but didn’t have the chance. A lot of the people in my life are going through difficult times right now; myself included. Doesn’t seem right, doesn’t seem fair, we want a ‘do-over’. As they were growing up, I often told my children that ‘life is hard; then you die’. This is my third career, the first two not ending as well as I’d have liked. The line, “…and they lived happily ever after…” hasn’t been the story of my life. Until I reflect upon the lives of others…
    A scene from a Hiroshima Diary, another project that didn’t work out; again because of an unreasonable time line. The above illustration was a gift. I was compelled to create the drawing above, the product of a drawing marathon, and I felt the Hand of the Creator guiding me. Unfortunately, I had to earn a living while working on the project, and I could not devote the concentrated time that I had with the first illustration. The story, written from the reflections of a woman still living in Japan, tells the story of a teacher who returned to Hiroshima a few days after the bomb, looking for her niece and nephew. Throughout the story she meets other children, all of whom die in her arms, from radiation poisoning. Children everywhere, separated from their parents or huddling by their deceased parents. The teacher brings a final blessing to their short lives. A part of our ‘proud American history’ that never gets told…
One of the reasons why I watch so many movies is to enter into the stories of other people. I prefer living my life in my cave, rather than interacting with others; at the same time I realize that my Creator made me as a person who needs other people in my life, in order for me to grow. When I was in college I was told repeatedly that “God has a plan for your life;” and I’ve always wondered whether I was really following that plan. My desire has been to follow that plan, and my desire has been to live the life I felt led to follow. My assumption, based on things I’d heard from platforms and pulpits, was that my life was supposed to work out well—by my definition of well. In truth, my life has worked out well; but I suffer from the Human Condition, I suffer from envy. I want my life to work out like some other people’s lives have worked out. Funny how we rarely envy those who live in tin- or cardboard shacks. I’ve met people who live in tin- or cardboard shacks, and have been learning that happiness does not depend upon the things with which we clutter our lives.

Some people are content with not asking questions about their lives; some people have no questions to ask.

    These lives remind me of the fact that I am blessed. I’m angry with my dissolving body; I’m angry about the stupid financial decisions I made when I didn’t realize that the economy was going to collapse. And yet, I have a roof over my head; my children have roofs over their heads; I’ve been married to Judy for 36 years [in a couple of weeks]; my career with the City earned a small pension that pays a lot of our bills. I can create images that have meaning for me.
Life is a mystery. Sherlock Holmes isn’t around to answer all of the questions for us. We have to live with the questions until we get Home. A lot of people claim to have answers to the questions, and I suppose it’s a good thing that these answers work for them. Unfortunately, a lot of the answers aren’t as universal as they believe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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