A piece of art may be transcendent to one, and mundane or incomprehensible to another. Hopefully, the hand and its context will move you to respond. Is it a worthy statement of grace, or a monstrosity of metal? Again, as always, you decide. Thou mayest.
As you gaze across a field of green grass, with cows lazily grazing, this pastoral setting is the nature we come into when we are born. It is the birthplace of humanity. We come into this world naked, vulnerable, and reliant on others to help us survive. Through the love of our parents and the good graces of the decent folks around us, we live and learn. In the fullness of time, we return the favor to the next generation by keeping the cycle alive. This is the circle of life in the natural world. Nature is beauty but it is also violence. It gives, but it takes, seemingly in the most senseless ways. Nature is a beautiful, child-like, women who is balanced between her power to create and her childlike temperament that confounds our expectations. We can’t resist her, but we fear her. Preferring the safe, steady seasons of bounty, we look with dread when her strength awakens and overwhelms our meager sense of safety and order.
The Metal Cage:
Our response to the whims of nature is to pull from her bones and build a citadel to resist her strength. With metal, concrete, and wood, we build homes, cities, and nations. We move about in cars on highways and cross bridges in trains. Silos hold our grains so that we can avoid want. Like birds we fly across continents to enjoy a thousand distractions. Mountains are moved to give us fuel to light our homes. We make products of countless variety with skills of exacting sureness. Our mutation causes us to forget the skills and virtues that allowed us to survive in a community in balance with nature. From afar, we see others who would steal our land, our lives, and our abundance. So governments come to enforce laws, field armies, and maintain order. Prisons are built to keep those who we punish. Fences are built to protect us, but from whom? We end up being caged in a mental and physical world where we feel compelled to act in ways that feel contradictory. The fears continue to rise until we are convinced that to protect our homes, we must venture from our cages to suppress people in other lands. We are now fully removed from the field. It is an abstraction.
We live in homes but our neighbors are strangers. We support wars to allay our fears, but we do not feel safe. We buy products, which we don’t need and don’t want, and are unsatisfied. Our society teaches us to never be content. Living for today is absurd, because you must learn from yesterday, and look to the future. Relentlessly striving to meet a standard that can’t be met, we feel inadequate. Our looks are wrong. Our successes are never enough. Our failures are signs of moral lapse. We must work harder, when all we really want is a kind word, a fair turn, and a peaceful rest. If we resist slightly, we are unwise, ungrateful, and must learn our place. If we resist mightily, we are shunned as traitors, fools, or degenerates. Our flesh we feel, but our heart tells us we are more. So we reach with all our might for something we can’t see. We strain to grab our essence, our true home. With our hand outstretched, and our head bowed, striving with all our might, we reach. We think to give up.
Just then, when we are spent, our tears have dried, our striving for what we can’t see or touch has maddeningly come to its fruitless end. It happens. At first we think it is but a trick of our mind’s power to concoct what we desire. But then every so slightly it makes its presence known. What we have been reaching toward and longing for, has always been there, gently leading us to a better understanding. It is light. It is a fire that burns as a thousand suns, but does not scorch. It is our soul telling us the world is an illusion. Our investment in the material has been misspent. We are more than our individual parts. We are one with everything and everyone. The caterpillar, we are, then transforms into the Butterfly, we become. The rules of the world are upended. The wind pushing the butterfly is no longer seen as weakness, but as strength. The paradox, that the first shall be last and the last shall be first, now resonates with clarity. This knowledge compels us to love and be loved. The pretenses of life are forever banished. The truth has set us free.