Good vs. Evil. That’s what I think about when I see “The Herald”, which has the coloring and thematic elements of a classic religious painting. Leo did a smashing job on the piece. I see this image and I think of the fire-and-brimstone Sundays of my church-going youth. Dante’s prose comes to mind, too. The Divine Comedy loosely represents the journey of the soul toward God through a gauntlet of self-awareness and sin. I’m not a religious man—though I don’t disdain religion—and the Divine Comedy speaks to me. It’s deep, it’s dark, and highly moralistic (and also exquisitely written). We all go through that struggle of light vs. dark, in large ways or small, religious or not.
What I really like about the Divine Comedy is the onus on the individual committing themselves toward sin or salvation. You can separate that lesson from its religious components, and it remains just as wise as before. We create sin/ crime/ evil (and likewise create “good”). For the most part, we create our destinies. Now in the Divine Comedy, the ramifications of mans’ decisions are heavy-handed and conspicuous: fortune tellers with backwards heads, Judas being eaten by Satan in perpetuity. In real life, our moralizing, our choices don’t manifest with quite the same gusto. Were the hand of God to reach down and slap us every time we broke one of Her commandments, we’d be a perfectly behaved flock.
Alas, divine intervention, or even fear of something greater—God, the Devil, aliens, Cthulhu, ourselves—has gone the way of rotary phones: inconvenient and anachronistic in the Age of Ego. People who preach humility are so rarely in possession of that virtue. People who extoll confidence are usually vacant on the inside, sad, and hungry. We’re all so hungry. We don’t fear much these days. We waste moments upon moments contemplating issues that would seem trivial to prior generations. We’re not polite. We’re so rarely united. We’ve developed social-systems whereby we’ve streamlined every aspect of communication except for communing: really understanding ourselves, our bodies, our souls, our world. Of course, there’s good in the world, though you have to sift to find it. I wish that ratio was reversed, and the shitty things were much harder to spot or gain traction.
If there’s one aspect of organized religion that I envy as an outsider, it’s the sense of belonging and existential certainty—however blind. I mean, I have that conviction on a personal level. But a hermit’s spiritual balance isn’t the same as communal harmony. I wish I could worship at a Church of Art, since creativity is divinely inspired. Or a Church of Love, where we’d share stories of our experiences as humans: black, white, gay, straight, male, female, businessman and call-girl (with an awkward moment as those last two recognize one another). I wish that there was a place where we could praise human achievement without hubris. I wish we could sing to Creation just to sing, and not because we feared our souls were damned.
Maybe we’ll make that church one day. And it will be bright and full of promise. I’ll be in the back pews, making sure that the call-girl and businessman play nice.
All my love,
P.S. The Gallery has been updated with all of Leo’s latest wonders! Oh, and packages are in the mail for the lucky winners of last month’s contest.