Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What did Vincent van Gogh eat for Breakfast?

The image one acquires of a genius is dependent on the selection. Whether the individual is a gifted painter, poet, philosopher, musician, inventor, or scientist, is, in fact, immaterial. Genius remains a matter of opinion and can't be measured. The genius, by accident of birth, possesses the special gift of originality, heightened perception and intuition, and embraces individualism in spite of (or because of) ridicule from contemporaries, in pursuit of their own vision and goal.

There remains a potent romantic image of the genius – probably, from Victorian times – as someone disturbed, on the verge of mental collapse, unable to keep their body and soul together. This is not the case with most geniuses. Jonathan Swift, David Hume, and Galileo Galilei, come to mind. There are others, of course.

The image of the artist Vincent van Gogh is a case in point. We know Van Gogh was a great artist: his works exist to to prove it. However, what is authentically known of Van Gogh's thinking, his inner tensions, the struggles his gifts bestowed upon him, his family and friends? A study of his life and work reveals a complex individual. This raises a further question: which human isn't complex?

Who decides whether a painting, a poem, a novel is, or, is not, a great work of art? In reality, it is a small coterie of academics, critics, merchandisers (so-called experts); an informal jury of sorts, who can make or break an artist's reputation and fortune.

Indeed, if we approach the works of geniuses without knowledge of a tragic backstory how would we view their works? It is impossible to know. The fact an artist may have died tragically at an early age draws some individuals to their works. This prior knowledge undoubtedly distorts one's view of the artist's output. How would such art be received if the artist were still alive? Would it be venerated to the same degree?

As with all individuals labeled geniuses, or not, excess of natural ability does not make for satisfaction and happiness, any more than excess of wealth.

Finally, what is normal? Each one of us is unique. We all have discreteness. We are all outstanding in our own way. Primarily, we are all moving in the same direction: seeking to live an authentic life out of the reach of false judges.

Reflections: For some people fame and fortune are a cross or a crown. They are recognised everywhere they go. As I live in anonymity, I am able to walk around my home unrecognised by my wife and children. Even our dog has stopped peeing on my leg, an affection which, oddly, I miss.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rebekah Kerrigan interviewed in the Neonatal Unit, Ulster Hospital on 13 June 2010 - 'First Hours on Mother Earth'

I'm using Ronnie's blog to explain some things before people start talking about me and I won't be able to get a word in edgewise.

My name is Rebekah. I was born by caesarian today, 13 June 2010. I'm only five hours old. I hope you like the photograph. It's not my best side and the nappy nearly touches my nose. Smaller sizes, please! My first 'tantrum' and it feels good.

Anyhow, my dad, Ricky, is talking to a young nurse dressed in water blue scrubs. Not my dad, the nurse, silly! Such a beautiful colour. I shall always remember it. In fact, it may become my favourite colour. Ricky looks pale, tired and anxious. I can tell he is kind and clever. Believe me, I can see him. He smiles and waves at me. I'm snug in my little incubator in the neonatal unit.

There's another baby in the unit, too. I'm quite small: four pounds, four ounces. I'm surrounded by monitors and a tube carries milk to my stomach. My mum, Lindsay, is in a side ward recovering from the delivery. My mum looked exhausted as she cradled me so I did my best not to cry too loud. She has lovely, soft hands. Mum needs rest, just like dad. I arrived unexpectedly, but, in truth, I couldn't wait any longer to be born.

My favourite nurse has blonde center-parted hair and a dazzling warm smile. My instinct tells me I will be blessed with charm and beauty, too. I may even be a nurse. Now that the curtain has raised on my life I intend to be kind, courteous, form my life and destiny, and live in harmony with all living things. I will try to remember that the simple things in life are usually the most important.

I've noticed talking can be difficult. Talking sense, I mean. On top of everything else I have to learn how to be relaxed and amusing in conversation, and learn all the social gestures, looks and hidden meanings. I intend to never sulk or make a fool of myself, and spread joy wherever I go. Of course, I expect my parents to discipline me, when necessary, out of general concern and love for me.

I occasionally wonder why some individuals fail to realise I'm a unique individual. I'm a girl like no other girl who has ever lived. Yet some people gaze at me and foolishly say I've my mother's eyes, my brother's nose, my father's legs. I'm not a diva, just making a point. I'm not a carbon copy or a genetic copy of other people. I'm me. REBEKAH KERRIGAN! Guess that counts as a second tantrum.

Well, I have two sisters and a brother. I've acquired the main role and expect to be subject to extremes of sibling jealousy and devotion. When I get out of hospital I'll arouse interest everywhere I go. Meanwhile I'm being looked after by mum and dad and nurses in hospital and they keep me clean, spotless and fed.

I wonder what our house looks like and if it's in a quiet street? How many rooms does it have? Has it got little cupboards and hiding places? The furniture, pictures, the symphonies of smells will be new to me. A newborn world of sounds, colours, lights, odours.

In the weeks, months and years ahead, I'm looking forward to experiencing all kinds of things, like: Christmas and birthday presents, reading books about horses, watching cartoons and films, playing games with my sisters and brother, riding a bicycle, smelling flowers (especially roses), eating food (I wonder if I will like Mexican?), licking ice-cream and lollies, listening to music, dancing, laughing, being read 'bedtime' stories by my parents and grandparents,  bathing in warm, bubbly, scented water with lots of toys, throwing small stones into a lake of calm water, chasing butterflies, wearing jewelery, perfume, makeup, finding true friendship and unquestionable love in all its guises.

The nurse is coming to check my oxygen levels. I have to go and pretend I'm asleep. Bye for now.

Reflections:  I am five hours old and the 'baby' of the family. And guess what? I will always be the baby, even when I’m thirty, forty, or sixty! That sounds really old now. I might even be married with children of my own and still be the baby. How strange is that?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Extraordinary Scenes in the Attic

This afternoon, on the stroke of two, I heard something resembling a Pistol Shrimp firing a Schwerer Gustav gun. I slowly climbed the stairs towards the source of the sound and opened the small, dusty trapdoor of the attic. An icy chill immediately infected my body. I'd tell you about my state of mind, but you might laugh, choke on a watermelon sorbet, hit me with a hefty lawsuit, or - heaven forbid - a pair of brown, thin Wale Cord trousers.

My breath began steaming in front of me then moved to the rear. I pushed my glasses back on my nose. My body parts and accessories were deserting me. I called out through the semi-darkness. No one replied. The smell of damp reignited an instinctive fear I'd almost forgotten.

Aided by the flickering, faint light from a bulb hanging from a long wire I glanced around the attic like an intruder. It was full of trunks, clothes, faded paintings, a three-poster bed, Howard Hughes, a collection of jungle clearings, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress World War Two airplane and, horror of horrors, my ex-wife, Loretta.

I thought she had drowned on vacation six months earlier when we attended an exhibition of paintings by Salvador Dali in Thomas Beecham's cigar.

I closed my eyes and turned away. My legs began to shake like an old horse. I heard a loud whine! I looked again, in silence. Loretta was clad in a diving suit, sitting in a bathtub, furiously waving her arms about in the air. It was difficult to know what Loretta was saying as she was wearing a diving helmet. I think she was swearing, 'You need locked up! . . . You made this happen!'

I rapidly closed the trapdoor and wiped the sweat from my face. My heart began to beat in time with my shaking legs. Trembling, I went downstairs and drank water to moisten my swollen tongue. I caught my reflection in the kitchen mirror and put it outside with the cat. I had to talk to my dear friend, Dr Hans Lubricant.

'Are you sure it’s her? A diving-suit, you say? A dreadfully unattractive woman, if I may say so?'

'I'd recognize that cold, harsh, miserable face anywhere!'

'Stay calm . . . We're all mortal, you know. A diving-suit, you say? Have you told her you remarried . . . her sister? An attractive, young woman, if I may say so?'

'Of course not! I'd take my own life, but where to? Travel insurance is so expensive.'

'I''ll come right over!'

The doctor walked across the living room. He spoke through clenched teeth which belonged to one of his patients.

'You're too hard on your self. She was idle and pampered. Look at your life through your own eyes, not through those of others. Why if it were "The Middle Ages" she would have been burned at the stake. Twice, at least.'

Hans took off his glasses and wiped his eyes with a handkerchief. He began to fidget, nervously.

'Listen. You're tired, exhausted. Have you considered your “inner eye” affliction may have returned? Momentarily, of course. You have an extraordinary imagination. I''ll check the situation myself.'

I listened in silence and drank more water.

Hans went upstairs and headed for the attic. A few minutes later he came flying down the stairs in the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress airplane with Howard Hughes on board.

'Let's get the hell out of here!' Hans shouted at me. ' It's the most terrifying image I've ever seen! All the hate of the world is contained in that women! She's alive, yet as old and cold as a corpse!'

As we flew through the front door the whine of bullets and explosives were too close for comfort. Without doubt Loretta had fiery ancestry in her blood. She fired until we became one with the soft, white clouds.

I fear her hunger for danger, excitement and hazardous adventure will be her downfall. Loretta's luck will run out, sooner or later, like me. 

Reflections:  Some people sacrifice everything in pursuit of wealth. They forget that life, love, compassion, altruism, humanity and laughter can not be pursued posthumously. Sometimes we watch each other suffocate and decline to help. Pity the individual whose life is enriched by watching a fellow human being in trouble, engaged in a struggle for survival, and does not intervene. A life becomes yesterday's news. Yet, life goes on.