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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Help Me, Obi Won Kenobi...


As I was sprinting my way through the Uffizi, the illustrious Florentine art gallery, I was stopped dead in my tracks by this image.

There were three wood panels on the wall painted in acrylic by the Italian Piero Del Pollaiuolo. Faith. Charity. Hope. While they were all marvelously done, I was only interested in one. Just like the child that enters the pet store and stops at the first dog…I was not budging. This is where my eyes wanted to rest, where my mind wanted to wander.

I noticed three things in contrast to the other panels.

• Her gaze upward: She was the one with a directive stare. She was the only one looking up. She was the only one who appeared mesmerized.
• Her tense posture: The others look at ease. Their hands are resting at their sides or are holding objects. Hope is sitting, with pristine posture, her hands flexed and pushing firmly against one another.
• Her glassy eyes: Her eyes are tearful. As we stood looking at the image, there was debate. “Is she crying?” asked one young mother. I answered, “If she isn’t, she definitely wants to.”

While some would argue that the imagery in Renaissance art is purely speculation and that the viewer gives too much meaning to fabric colors, hand formations, and the number of birds perched on a tree, there is no doubt in my mind that the artist of this piece understands hope…and has portrayed its beauty well.

Hope is often used so happily. “I hope you have a nice day,” “I hope to see you again,” “I hope your date goes well this evening.” We use these lines to bring comfort or support to others. We hope that by offering hope we will bring rest, peace, or joy to someone. But is that really what hope looks like?

There is no denying that hope, just as expressed in the kind wishes above, is a looking towards the future. Hope is seeking the manifestation of our current desires in the future. Our desires are in fact the engine for our hopes. Where there is desire there will be hope. Hope moves us forward. But does hope bring comfort and support? Or is it perhaps a more dangerous and sacrificial endeavor?

Back to this image. Obviously the gaze upward could be defined as a looking toward heaven. It could in fact be a representation of the eschatological hope that Christian possess today. But if she is gazing towards God, or a future in heaven, why the tears? Why the tension?

I cannot project the thoughts of the Italian artist, but I can take a stab at it. My opinion…Because hope drives you mad. Hope rarely brings comfort, hope unveils your foolishness. Hope is not easy. Hope is not the bow for the pretty package. Hope is maddening. Hope brings tears, clinched fists, and sweat. Hope is exhausting.

It is said that where your tears fall, there you find your hopes and dreams.

This painting reflects that and causes me to think about my own hopes. I hope for love not based on what I can do for others. I hope for a future without divorce. I hope to be a man that Taryn can be proud of. I hope to be a part of a community that can redeem much of the created world that is now used for violence. I hope, hope, hope. I hope for something greater than me. I hope for a new world. I hope for eternity.

And the hoping hurts sometimes.

I hope it never stops.

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