Birthday Presents for Eric

When my wife Marci asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I said that I wanted art. Specifically, some Jay Asp Art. I gave her a few different ideas of pieces that I might like, in order to maintain some element of surprise — but I’m really happy that she chose to get me a print of the piece titled Quixote. Because it’s meaningful for me on several different levels.

First, I just find the piece to be inherently beautiful. Well-rendered, with calming colors, and vaguely nostalgic for me (explained in the next paragraph), while also being accessible for others. I like the fact that one doesn’t have to know all of the back-story to find the piece visually-engaging.

Second, I enjoy this piece of art because it has personal resonance. The subject of the painting is a wooden sculpture that was purchased by my parents on a trip to Ecuador in the mid-1980s. So, it represents this unique bridge between the “exotic” and the “domestic.” It speaks to places I’ve never seen with my own eyes and languages that I do not know how to speak — places that have stirred my imagination for decades — but it’s also a deeply familiar object that I’ve held with my own hands on numerous occasions. The sculpture of Don Quixote is intimately associated with my parents, and my family of origin, and the more ethereal notion of “home.” And I like that. In fact, I just noticed the sculpture and appreciated it last week (see the photo at the bottom of the linked post). The personal connection strengthens my appreciation for the artwork.

Third, I just love the story of Don Quixote. I’ve never actually read the original novel by Miguel de Cervantes (though I still hope to get to it one of these days). Even so, the story looms large in my mind through the ways that other stories have reflected and amplified the Don Quixote narrative. Especially the musical Man of La Mancha. I understand Don Quixote to be the story of a man who initially seems to be insane, seeing things that nobody else is seeing, ascribing beauty and terror and honor to things that everyone else dismisses as ordinary. He starts out as an object of ridicule and/or pity. But as the story of Don Quixote plays out, the rest of the world starts to wonder if the world he’s living in is a better, more hopeful, world — and maybe everyone else would be better off living like him. Thus, Don Quixote is both a tragic figure and a heroic figure. He makes us question our perspective on the world, and this is a worthwhile pursuit, even if it is also painful.

The fourth reason that I love my new piece of art is that it represents a new adventure — one that some might call a quixotic adventure — by my brother Jay. He’s recently decided to resign from his position as a high school art teacher to make a living off of his art. He doesn’t know how it’s going to work out. It’s unclear whether his vocational shift is insane or ingenious. But I absolutely love that he’s doing it. And I’m glad that our family can support the endeavor by purchasing a print of Quixote from JayAspArt.com. In addition to supporting my brother Jay, it feels like there’s some element of support for my son Elliot, since he helped to develop the website and marketing strategy for this new endeavor. But even pushing all nepotism aside, I just love these sorts of leaps of faith. I love the initiatives that some might call quixotic. And I love the fact that my new piece of art speaks to all this.

The fifth and final reason why I love my new work of art is that it speaks to my own life of faith. I genuinely wonder sometimes if I’m just a madman, “tilting at windmills.” And I certainly feel insecure, at times, to think of how others might see me (whether I’m crazy or not). But Quixote helps me to see the beauty in the process. Even if I’m just an echo (my life and ministry) of an echo (a painting) of an echo (a wooden carving) of an echo (a novel) of a transcendent theme of human existence, I’m glad to be on the journey. Wherever it may take me.

This entry was posted in Introspection, Middle Age, Nostalgia, Prayer, Recommendations, Recommended Browsing, Recommended Viewing. Bookmark the permalink.

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