"The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it."
-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.
"The Master's Paintings"
This short piece will be included in the programs for the wedding tommorow.
The Master’s Paintings
Once upon a time, there was a Master Painter. Every picture he painted, whether it was a landscape, a portrait, or any other sort of painting, was beautiful and perfect. Kings and presidents and chancellors and wealthy men of all lands hung his paintings in their living rooms and bedrooms and dining rooms and everywhere else. Museums everywhere clamored for his paintings, and he could barely paint fast enough to satisfy everyone, so popular were his paintings.
One small museum had been on his waiting list for a very long time when word came that they were soon to receive one of the Master’s paintings. They were thrilled, and the museum was soon a flurry of activity. They prepared the main chamber of the museum to hold the painting, and began sending invitations to all nearby artists and dignitaries to come to the unveiling. The entire town was aquiver with anticipation.
The day finally came. It sat alone in the main chamber, just inside the entrance to the museum. It was the only painting in the room, but that day it was joined by all manner of people. Journalists, art critics, artists, politicians, celebrities of all kinds were on hand for the unveiling.
But when the velvet sheet that hung over the painting came off, there was not the reaction of awe everyone expected. It was a good painting, to be sure. A great one, even, bearing all the marks of the Master’s genius. But something seemed wrong, though no one in the stunned audience could put their finger on it, exactly.
For the next few days, the painting stayed in the main chamber, and artists and art critics hovered around it, not to admire it, but to figure out what was wrong with it. “That tree seems to be in the entirely wrong place,” one said.
“And why is that cloud there?” another asked, “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“And that road seems very awkwardly placed, doesn’t it?” a third noted. On and on they went like this, for days.
The museum was very embarrassed, and one day quietly moved the painting to the back of the museum where it was mostly forgotten.
Then one day, with no warning, another package from the Master Painter arrived. “Is he making up for the last one, do you think?” the curators asked each other eagerly as they opened the package, salivating over the prospect. But when this one came out of the package, they found again the same problems as the last painting. It was great, still, with all the marks of the Master’s genius, still. But still, objects were in the wrong place and others were there that seemed like they should not be, and still others were not there when it seemed like they should be.
They sighed, and discussed amongst themselves what do to with it. Eventually it was decided that they would put the painting in the same far back room as the other, so as to spare themselves more embarrassment.
They all headed back there, hung the painting on the wall across from the other and were about to leave when suddenly one of them—not even a curator, but an intern—noticed something. “Wait a minute!” she said. “Look at them now.”
When they did, they saw something amazing. Now that they were across from each other, the paintings looked “right.” The clouds made sense, the road made sense, the trees made sense, everything that had seemed strange or odd about either of them before was completely explained by the presence of the other. They made each other better paintings.
The curators were overjoyed, and wasted no time in clearing out the main chamber to make room for the two paintings, which they again hung across the room from each other. They had another unveiling, and this time there was no disappointment. Everyone left shaking their heads in wonder at the ingenuity of the Master Painter.
Time went by, and though everyone was still amazed at the newfound majesty of the paintings, it was decided to put another exhibit in the main chamber as well, and so the paintings were put together on the same wall next to each other. The change was breathtaking. As much of an improvement as putting them in the same room had been, this was even more so. The curators were thrilled, and held another gathering to show the world their new discovery. This was surely the Master’s greatest work.
But it was not. Every time they moved the paintings even an inch closer together, they each became even more beautiful and masterful. So they kept moving them closer and closer together, until, eventually, someone had the idea to put them in the same frame. And when they did, it was the most remarkable discovery of them all. Not only were they both more amazing than they ever had been before, but they were two halves of the same painting.
The curators, again, were stunned, amazed and overjoyed. They held a final unveiling ceremony, the biggest, fanciest and most crowded yet. The audience was left speechless both at the beauty of the painting, and that they had not noticed that they were the same painting earlier.
And so, the painting hung there in the main chamber for many years, a tribute to the mastery, skill, ingenuity, sense of humor and love of the Master Painter who painted it.