Thursday, March 21, 2013

The emptiness of perceived fullness

I had no idea where this painting was going; I only knew it wasn't yet completed.  But I realized this morning, reading an article on John of the Cross in preparation for an upcoming retreat, that the bizarre impulse I had yesterday to outline all those little pieces in this figure was an important -- if temporary -- prompting of the spirit.

"For John of the Cross the human person is seen as an infinite capacity for God.  As long as one is preoccupied with filling the great caverns of the mind, heart, memory and imagination with human knowledge, loves, memories and dreams...the person is unable to feel or even imagine the vast hollowness one is. 

Only when one becomes aware of the illusory and limiting character of this fullness in the face of the breakdown of what/whom we have staked our lives on, the limitations of our life project and relationships, the irruption of our unclaimed memories, and the shattering of our dreams and meanings, can the depths of hunger and thirst that exit in the human person, the infinite capacity, really be experienced.  

Only when the great cavern of memory is enfeebled by its obsession with the past, debilitated by its unforgettable suffering over losses and evil inflicted, limited by its inability to come to terms with a complex world, constricted by its need to organize images or to understand and unsay inherited constructs, can the great void of yearning for God really be admitted." (Constance Fitzgerald, "From Impasse to Prophetic Hope: Crisis of Memory," CTSA proceedings 64 (2009)

Seen in this light, all the losses I've experienced over the last 15 years, the loss of all the pieces of me that I thought I was merrily carrying down what seemed to be an obvious path, become a dismantling, a necessary emptying of useless fragments of identity in order to make way for the in-pouring of God and spirit... Hmm.  Ever practical, I find myself wondering whether that in-pouring will happen on this painting, or whether this painting is done, and needs to serve as a reminder of the emptiness of perceived fullness. 

1 comment:

Maureen said...

It seems a paradox, doesn't it, that we have to empty ourselves to once more become full . . . of what matters?

Lovely post. Fascinating image.