Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The First Picture

It all begins with a boy, an oxherd, deep in the forest.  He could be anyone, young or old, male or female, you or I.  Anyone searching for a big Idea.  There's a bee in the picture--do you see it?  Peeking out from behind those leaves, waiting to see what will happen?  What does it wish to find out?  What do we?

The artist Tomikichiro draws the boy with a look of self-assurance, even cockiness.  There's a whip in his hands.  But the poet Pu-ming sees something else: he insists the boy is lost.  Why should such a one be lost?

The boy is lost because he is . . . a boy.  He is immature, not ready for an Idea the size of an ox.  Could he even spot one?  Would he know how to approach it?  How to make the capture?  And even if he caught it . . . what then?

The boy is lost for another reason.  He has, in the poet's words, "violated his own inmost nature."  And now he is far off course, looking in all the wrong places, taken in by appearances, consumed by the desire for gain and therefore terrified by the prospect of loss.  I will be the One, he thinks.  But what if he is not?  What if the ox eludes him?  What if he ends up with a mouse?  Despite that cocky look, the boy is full of fear.

From far away there comes the sound of something crashing through the forest.  And I wonder: perhaps the Idea is searching too.  Wandering through a forest of its own.  Immature, like the boy.  Far from home and far from ready for a meeting.


GO TO PICTURE  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   



Violet Dalla Vecchia said...

Hmmm ... the whip puzzles me. Is it a weapon for self-protection, and protection from whom or what? Is the whip for goading or driving an ox in the direction the boy desires, as in the manner of a horse driven carriage or mule train? Oxen are beasts of burden, domesticated and utilized by man to achieve goals (farming, carrying heavy loads, pulling carts, etc.) Is the boy seeking the idea/ox/spiritual leader to carry his load (the unknown)which has become burdensome?

His stance, legs apart, feet planted firmly, arms crossed over his chest suggests false bravado for one so young, setting out on a quest. "Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect, and whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect, I'm afraid." (Feel free to sing along with Anna from "The King and I") I concluded he's whistling in the dark.

As this is only the first piece of the puzzle, I'm going to take a week to move the piece around a bit in my mind, before looking at the next picture.

Bill O'Malley, S.J. said...

When I first looked at the first picture, all I saw was the SMILE and the folded arms that bespoke CONFIDENCE. This weekend, even at the end of September, I saw an eight-year-old boy water-skiing. His face was utterly consumed in a huge, confident, proud SMILE. He was just busting with the joy of BEING A BOY! Whatever comes, this kid will rise to it.

Bill O'M