(Meditation on Camille de la Rosa’s Portrait of Anatomy S. II)
Psychoanalyst Sheldon Kopp writes in his book, An End to Innocence in 1978,
Life can be counted to provide all the pain that any of us might possibly need. At times, each of us adds a measure of needless suffering to that already weighty inevitable burden. We insist that life’s random mishaps and calamities should not be happening to us. By dramatizing our plight with an anguished sense of personal injustice we exaggerate the pain of chance mishaps.
With our lives today are already burdened by different problems, conflicts of different levels or phases. However, turning to fairy tales in solving the problems of life will just aggravate the problem and will never solve it; it will just give as a Maya, an illusion that life can be perfect as we wish but in reality, it is not.
Camille de la Rosa’s Halt! And Hearken the Messages!, gave the author a certain realization: There is a need to reflect,meditate and realize that life is difficult, as M. Scott Peck said in the introduction of his book, The Road Less Traveled; however, this difficulty cannot be eased up by elusive solutions but facing the reality that we are more than flesh and blood.
The central image of the painting, “Halt! And Hearken the Messages!,” which is the second in the series of Portraits of Anatomy, the bald woman inside the serpent’s mouth, with arms open wide, in an act of worship, embedded inside an open skull with eyes wide-open is clearly, a representation of the need of the humankind to stop and reflect for a while in order for him or her to see the “higher reality,” which is that the temporal needs of the body is not the be-all and end-all of human existence.
It is undeniable that most of the people are busying themselves in getting and keeping things that soon will rot and/or can be stolen or burnt by fire. They have forgotten that their humanity is composed of three inseparable elements: the mind, the body and the soul (though some say, people don’t have soul, they have only senses).
Some people pursue high degrees of learning—master of arts, master of sciences, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. They always feed their minds with information from the academic books. They memorize and experiment. They deprive themselves of sleep and rest, just for the pursuit of “learning.”
Teenagers fill their minds with a lots of information about relationships, sex, and other that things that delight their senses.
Many believe that intellect can make their lives better. However, they have forgotten, that on the time of their death, all of they have studied and all of the knowledge that they have acquired on this earth, will be gone on the time of their death.
King Solomon, the wisest king of Israel wrote:
For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again…
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.1
Adults always think about money, about food, about the clothes they wear. As if the body will never perish at the time of their death. They become very anxious if their pockets do not have a bulk of cash.
They have forgotten, what the Lord Jesus Christ himself, has told his disciples once:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.2
Meanwhile, it must not be interpreted that all of us must not think of our temporal needs. We need food, money and shelter to survive. To be able to get money to buy nourishment and get shelter, we need to toil.
Nevertheless, Yahweh will never say to Adam,
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. 3
What the painting is trying to say is, life is more than food, more than money. We are more than matter. For if we believe that we are just matter, flesh and blood, there is no reason for us to think that we are humans but beasts. Beasts live to hunt (toil), eat and seek shelter.
The path for liberation is liberating our mind, heart and soul from the anxiety of getting temporal wealth but acquiring the eternal one. This is not a religious statement, but a reality that we must realize.
Greed is the number one enemy of the human soul and the human mind. Gluttony, the highest form of greed, undeniably is now plaguing the human society. Gluttony not only in food, but in power and fame, pushes nation to wield war against other nation.
Creating false human needs (read: luxury, vanity), capitalists and the capital-driven society have effectively put the entire human race in the midst of chaos. It has also put the entire world into false situation of scarcity.
Because of the noise of materialism and consumerism, the ears of the soul, the life force, have been deafen and cannot hear the call of the Wisdom anymore (symbolized by two nuclear clouds at the background of the central image.)
The hands on ears, the eyes wide-open which is also a compound image of a skinned man and a skull, facing each other, suggest that it is high time to listen to the voice from within: the eternal Wisdom of the ancient, and that is, the voice of the soul represented by the heart and mind combined.
This is not escapism, but liberation from the falsehood that human existence is only to acquire wealth that can only bring anxiety.
Quoting King Solomon once again,
The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.4
This voice for so long, has been repressed by the noises of this world. Now the Wisdom is now again calling to us. Let us listen and follow her instructions. Only then, we can be free from the shadows of chaos, difficulties and uncertainty. (Pilipinas Reporter)
1Ecclesiastes 3:19-20; 9:10, King James (Authorized) Version, 1611
2Matthew 6:19-21 (KJV)