Sunday, November 8, 2015

".... I want our hearts to be open. I mean it." (from The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison)

He said, "I am in your life to destroy the little trust you have in men."

A few years before saying that, he gave me a carved painted wooden fish napkin holder as a gift.  He also gave me a rusted tool associated with a Model-A Ford (1927-1931).  He had found the tool in the detached garage of his family's home which had been built in the late 1800s or early 1900s.  I collected rusted tools at the time, inspired by R who also collected rusted old tools and made mobiles out of them.  At one time, I had an old rusted cultivator on my porch.  Before that unhappy man abruptly walked out of my life several months later (and yet reappeared at odd times for several unsettling years), I made these two paintings, thinking about him as well as the Vietnam veteran I loved who later died of complications of alcoholism, and vaguely of my father who was a painful source of bewilderment to me, at first unconsciously and then consciously.

Those two paintings are from my Calendar Series from the late 1980s:

44th Month:  Imaginary Brother With Fish With Open Heart.
46th Month:  Land Fish With Open Hearts Confronting Stranded Tool

Early this morning, I finished reading a series of essays on empathy that has given me everything good writing can give.  Much gratitude to Sabine for drawing my attention to The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison.  It goes hand in hand with The Man Who Loved Dogs, by Leonardo Padura and All The Light We Cannot See and Why We Took The Car.  Not easy reading.  With each book, there was a moment where I thought that I could not continue reading, and I stopped.  And then thought twice.  Toni Morrison's Beloved falls in that category of books.  I couldn't bear to read it until I could.

I am here today to say that the man who perceived himself as a powerful destroyer failed.  When I heard his words, I thought, "You are no longer in my life."  Since he disappeared with his closed heart, I have met many men with open hearts.  They are like brothers to me.  I trust them.  I want all our hearts to be open, including the man who gave me the carved fish and the rusted tool and the cryptic message that freed me.  I mean it.


bev said...

Wonderful paintings and back story, am. I believe very much in having an open heart too. I've been having problems leaving comments on your blog. Let's see if this one works!

am said...

Thank you, bev!

Glad that your comment came through this time. I tried to update my ClustrMap, and it isn't showing everyone who visits my blog, but I don't think that shouldn't be interfering with comments.

Tara said...

am I glad he did not succeed. it's amazing what people tell us -- we should always believe those seemingly strange messages, as they are usually true. My young co-dependent self would have taken his statement as a challenge, and I may have spent many years trying to 'change' him. I'm happy you were able to walk away.