September 5, 2010

Water (or, why I love museums)

The city next door to us has an art museum, and today it was open for free. Besides the free admission, my family was drawn to go today because of a new exhibit they have, on Water. I was filled with anticipation, trotting up the low steps, entering the building, smiling at the receptionist lady. She explained to us that the water exhibit was downstairs. "You'll love it," she said. And she was right.

There I saw water explored in metaphor, religion, sound, shape, film. One wall contained a quote about water that I very much liked, by Thomas Cole: "Like the eye in the human countenance, it is a most expressive feature." Maybe you know how significant water is to me; I have a long-time love affair with rain compounded with a recent affinity for it in my mind's imagery. Water shows up in my poetry and even that turtle story. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed the exhibit very much.

I stopped to talk to a few of the museum guards (talking to people is exciting). I asked one girl what her favorite piece in the exhibit was, and she directed me to go to a film about water. She sent me off saying, "Tell me about it when you're done." I walked into a room where a short movie was playing, called Amazing Grace. Side note: I'm having a blast raving about the museum, and it's strange to switch into honest discussion of what I thought. I'd rather talk about something than just talk (as much fun as talking is). I felt like the scenes played, an ocean with a woman splashing and floating in the waters, expressed how water was both over-powering and yielding. The waves are strong, yet the water flows, liquid. Strength does not have to be brick-wall solidity. The movie showed her first splashing by the water's edge, then being taken farther in. Surrender, and rest. It reminded me of that CS Lewis passage about actually going into the ocean of God. So what is grace, what did it communicate about grace? There's the obvious metaphor of "grace like rain" or God washing us. The film explored that for me, how grace can be strong and shining, something to trust in, yet it also understands, moves around, moves with.

"To be seen and known — I think it's something every person craves in this life. To experience the deepest connection is to be truly found out, and still be loved. The Bible calls it grace." ~Kara Schwab

I was so excited about this conversation about grace I was going to have, but when I skipped back to talk to the guard, she told me that I had gone to the wrong room. The film she wanted me to see was called Ablutions. This one portrayed a stream of water being poured from the top of the screen to the bottom, in two screens played simultanously. One contained a man, another a woman. This film seemed to make water the flow of time, traveling from dawn till encountering humanity, then remaining as the people fade away. I was interested to see the people wringing or smoothing their hands through the water, both to mold the water and be moved by it. It was slow, calmly so, a moving stillness where the peace brought out every emotion you experienced.

When I finished watching this one, the girl had been joined by another guard. We had an interesting conversation about what the art meant, what it made them think about. I realize that I need to listen more, even when I want to share what I have to say. I'm, trying to analyze why I'm writing all of this. Part of it is because I wanted to get it all down somewhere, but I did write things in my notebook. Why tell stories if people don't want to hear them? Is my thought all for myself, or is it for your sakes? Will there always be doubt in speaking about my experiences, not knowing if other people are obliging me by listening, hoping I'm not trying to portray a certain image?

This becomes a tangent which isn't one at all, this wondering about wanting to talk with other people about what brings me so much joy. I'm afraid that sharing of ... dare I call it wonder? is only loving upon the condition of the other person wanting to hear it. But should things really rest upon another's affirmation? I don't think so, I don't think I'm looking for reassurance. Now I'm thinking of mutuality, how taking can give, and giving take.

To speak - or write, in this case - is an act of belief that someone will listen. In my head, it makes no sense to talk to people who don't want to listen. In the way I live, I think that saying what I want to say is more important to the common good than other people really consider it to be. I will learn, I will. The more I care about truth, the more I'll care that I speak in a language people can hear. For this is the work, interpretation.  For truth, or a word of life, which belongs to someone separate and Other, to be integrated into a person's soul, into a person's life.

So I was looking for forgiveness for not caring enough about the guards themselves - I cared in my mind but not my heart and words - and then there was water, a reminder of grace. The steadyness of the waves ask for surrender. There was one part of the display that featured a speaker playing the sound of waves. And now I understand, "as I went down to the river to pray."

There was more at the museum. There were sculptures that I felt I could interact with, paintings I thought I understood, one I copied part of.
Janos Mattis-Teutsch
Untitled (Two People), Late 1920's
There was an exhibit of animals in children's art. One was dedicated, "To Love and those who dare put all their eggs in one basket," which I liked very much. So this all goes to say that I really enjoyed my trip to the museum today. And in a strange sort of way, I'm glad to be able to share it with you.


Michael said...

Thank you for sharing your museum trip :) I'm a bit jealous of you (museums are so amazing). I wish (as I usually do) that I had something to SAY, but really I just want to thank you for sharing it, I really enjoyed reading.

Avery said...

"The more I care about truth, the more I'll care that I speak in a language people can hear." This is wonderful to ponder. I really like this post :), and, seconding Michael, thanks for sharing!

Kaitlyn said...

I really liked reading this post. It was fun, enjoyable, and thought provoking.

Museums, ftw!