"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Jesus Painting

About a month ago, Evan's Language Arts teacher assigned a research paper. He was to choose an artist to research and become an expert on, then convey what he had learned in what ended up being a 9-page single-spaced paper. It was a Big. Deal. He selected Leonardo DaVinci and he did a great job on it.

Then, as a culminating project, he had to recreate one of the Master's Masterpieces. This was going to be difficult. Evan, by his own admission, is not an artist. He doesn't like the subjectivity or the mess.

I assumed he would sculpt DaVinci's horse, the one that was, famously, never completed because it was destroyed in a war. How apropos for my military history loving kid, I thought. Plus, a horse sculpture seems pretty simple to recreate. I mean, just get the basic shape down, the teacher doesn't expect  DaVinci level perfection, right? Instead, he decided to paint The Last Supper. 

Yes. This one:

The Last Supper - by Leonardo Da Vinci

"Wow, bud," I said, trying to mask my surprise. "That's pretty ambitious."

"She said if the painting has a lot of people in it, we only need to do a part of it," he clarified, easing some of the concern I had for him being able to complete the project.

"And I'm going to make mine a Jesus painting."

I couldn't help but smile.

"You know why that's kind of ironic?" I asked, remembering a story from a few years ago....

"Because I'm an atheist?"

Hmmm...yes. That, too. But I was thinking of this...

We were invited over to the home of a family who had recently moved into our neighborhood for a playdate. As the kids bounded down from the playroom, headed to the backyard, Evan noticed a painting hanging in their hallway.

"Who's that guy?" Evan asked the mom, pointing.

She looked at the painting, then at Evan, then at me.

"Well, Evan," she said, with the faint hint of judgement in her voice, "that's Jesus."

"Oh!" he responded. "I thought maybe it was somebody's uncle or something."

I stifled my laugh.


We're not Christian, and that's unusual where we live. I think most people assume that we just haven't "found our church" yet or that we're "Christmas and Easter Christians." When I come out and say it, though, that We're Not Christian, people are often taken aback. Our kids have heard about Jesus, of course, but we talk about him as a historical figure...a good guy...a great leader. Evan thinks of himself as an atheist, Max doesn't think that there's a puppet-master God who has our whole lives already planned out for us, but hasn't labeled himself yet.

I'm not surprised that Evan has, though.

His skepticism began when he was three, attending a church-run preschool program two mornings a week. He came home from school one day and announced that his class had learned a new song. He went on to sing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," before demanding some further information. Who has the whole world in his hands? And why is he holding it? And, you know what, Mommy? That's not actually possible.

He's a fact and figures kind of guy. Evidence-based proof. Historical data. He'll believe it if he can see it.

And, he comes from skepticism. I renounced my own Catholicism when I was 16. I had had some unsettling questions and doubts about Christianity for years but hadn't wanted to admit them. (I was, and still am, such a Pleaser. I didn't want to upset anyone with my lack of faith.) As I got older, though, and started to learn of the politics, scandal, and hypocrisy rife within the Catholic Church, I couldn't keep quiet and I could no longer accept Communion.

I took a smattering of World Religion courses through college. Nearly enough to have minored in it, actually. I was seeking. I didn't feel like an atheist...I felt as though there was something "out there" that was bigger than all of us and giving all of purpose...but I never found that one Truth that spoke louder than the others. 

There's a lot to admire in all of the world religions I studied, but in the end I settled on the "religion" of Science and Nature. We're all part of this one vast organism that is the universe; we are all connected and depend on one another and should, therefore, do right by each other.

As for an "afterlife," well, I believe in the scientific principle that energy cannot be created nor destroyed. My life energy will exist in some form once my body dies, but I'm not really concerned about the particulars of where or how. Reincarnation? Maybe. It makes sense to me from an energy constancy standpoint. I don't know if it's as highly structured and based on the economy of karma as the Buddhist worldview posits. I do know that I carry the life energy of my grandparents and people with whom I was close who have died. I can feel it. I can feel them.

What more could I want?

Lesson Learned:

Evan says he is an atheist. He probably is. I think he sees this world in black and white; truth and justice, action and consequence. It doesn't bother him that there is nothing "after" this life. This life is enough. Maybe he'll change his mind some day and seek an alternate Truth that feels right for him. Maybe not.

He also says he'll never paint again. I'm not sure there's much truth to that, especially given the fact that he has been assigned to an Art elective next quarter. But, in this case, I hope he's wrong. I loved watching him struggle through this project...not for the frustration...but for the perseverance. He hated every minute of this project, but he nailed it. And I'm so proud of him.

I think he's pretty proud of himself, too.

1 comment :

  1. I seem to find Catholics (and ex-Catholics)...

    That's a great picture, and a great meditation on your family's belief system. Thanks for sharing.