Yesterday, I had the honor of contributing to a panel discussion on the art of Margaret Vega here at the Acton Institute. Her exhibition is titled, “Angels, Dinergy, and Our Relationship with Perpetual Order.” Some fuller coverage may be forthcoming on the PowerBlog, but in the meantime I have posted the text of my presentation, “Death and the Struggle for Permanence” at Everyday Asceticism.
Angels … represent hope amid the human struggle for permanence in a life so characterized with the dark and tragic side of impermanence, death most bitterly of all. Heraclitus found the fact of impermanence so essential that he coined the phrase, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” And Socrates memorably declared that all true philosophers do nothing but contemplate death. And, at the very least, we may say that every major religion offers a way to engage humankind’s most primal fear, the fear of the radical impermanence of death.
But does “Perpetual Order” depict true hope amidst this struggle? On the one hand … the angels are symbols of permanence amid impermanence. On the other hand, however, on the panel hanging in the meeting room to the left of the gallery and on the panels on the gallery’s south wall, we see how the angel’s wing bleeds onto the blackboard, ready to be erased. Here we can see most especially that angels are not themselves the permanence for which we hope and may just as easily represent the ephemeral nature of our hopes as their certainty. Margaret even shared a story with us earlier about a graveyard in Mexico City where stone angels had been reduced to rubble after a major earthquake.