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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Birthday Party, parts 3815 - 3818

 3815. No interest was taken by the authorities in Clara’s group because it was so small, and their ideas so extreme that it was all taken as a kind of joke by everyone who heard about it. For Clara however there was no part of her mind or her thinking that was not occupied by the groups ideas and assumptions.

 3816. I can’t say for certain if Clara’s really believed all of the ideas she so fervently espoused at those Bible study meetings. If you want my opinion I will tell you, but I ask the reader not to judge me too harshly, and keep in mind that what I am going to say is just my opinion, and I will be the first to say I could be completely wrong.

 3817. Having said that as an introduction, I will now say that Clara did not believe a word of what was said in the Bible study group, and latched on to it in desperation because she needed some way out of here terrible predicament of being a nursemaid to her eternally dying husband.

3818. Clara was a simple and honest woman, but even though she was honest with herself and with others, she could never have brought herself to say that she wished her husband would just die and get it over with.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Birthday party, parts 3811 - 3814

3811. They foresaw no conflict arising from their plan to work for the destruction of the government, simply because they had implicit faith in both the Tsar, and their Bible study group leader. They knew that the Tsar was devout and so it was obvious to them that he could not possibly ignore directions, which would be coming directly to him via the leader of their study group. 

3812. The government had to be recreated following the instructions sent from the Divine Mind, as revealed to the sect’s leaders who were obviously divinely inspired. They were divinely inspired because otherwise they could never have come up with these outlandish ideas in the first place.

3813. I refer to the sect’s leaders in the plural but that is a misstatement, because the Bible reading group had been created and directed by one man, a Doctor of Divinity who had graduated from Yale’s Divinity School. This is not the place to describe this man, who was simply a con-artist and charlatan who spent his time exploiting middle aged woman in emotionally difficult circumstances. Clara had fallen under his spell, and that is all we need to know about him at this point.

3814. For Clara the Bible study group became the one thing she felt was important enough to abandon the care of her husband. Gradually household employees and nurses looked after him as she devoted more and more time to her religious activities. You would think a group with such outlandish and extreme ideas might come under the watchful eye of the secret police, but the police took no interest in them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Birthday, Party, parts 3807 - 3810

 3807. After her husband had been immobile for four years she began to go out of the house for one afternoon a week, this excursion was to a church nearby where she attended a Bible reading and study group sponsored by missionaries of some Protestant sect from America.

 3808. For some unknown reason these Bible study sessions took place in an auxiliary building of a local Russian Orthodox Church. This was a highly irregular situation but was made possible by a new priest who considered himself to be aware of the “new ideas.”

 3809. These Bible reading and scriptural study meetings at first were of a very benign nature, but they soon evolved into a secretive and conspiratorial association. Under the umbrella of a devout and pious activity, the members began to form a small sect with an agenda, an almost revolutionary agenda.

3810. Studying the Bible they reached certain conclusions about government. There idea could be stated simply, and it was this, “Christ will return one day and His reign on earth will commence. In order to prepare for His coming, secular and monarchical government had to be abandoned and the rule of the church had to he instituted.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Birthday Party, parts 3803 - 3806

3803. She was somehow convinced that the death of her husband was bound to occur in those moments when she had left him unattended, and this idea kept her in a perpetual state of guilt and despair. In such a circumstance it is natural to assume that secretly she desired her husband’s death, and indeed everyone who knew her simply assumed it had to be so. 

 3804. If they pictured themselves in her place they could not help but consider that such a situation was highly unnatural, and begged for a simple and obvious resolution. And yet, if her friends thought about it more deeply they shocked themselves with the realization that what they contemplated bordered on murder, if the wish that someone might die could be akin to that crime. 

3805. As for Clara, we do not know if she wished her husband would simply die and be done with it. She certainly never let slip any comment that would imply such thoughts, and her actions never displayed frustration. 

 3806. She did have a recurring dream she kept to herself, not sharing it even with her sister. In her dream her husband was long dead, and she was in Italy standing on a beach at the ocean. In the dream she was 47 years old, and yet felt herself to be just a teenager. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Birthday, parts 3799 - 3802

 3799. We have not said anything about Clara, Harriet’s sister because she is the most difficult of the party to describe. She was older than Harriet by about ten years, so she was about 62 years old at the time. 

 3800. Her social life had more or a less come to an end about a decade ago when her husband had developed heart problems. Dr. Herzenstube was forced to call in specialists to deal with the case because he could not figure it out. The heart specialists were convinced that Clara’s husband had only a few months to live.

 3801. That was a decade ago and still her husband clung to life even though he was, to all appearances, barely alive. Clara could have easily hired several nurses to take care of her husband and look after him night and day, but she felt it was a religious obligation for her to do it all herself. 

3802. She did have one assistant to help her, and to be available if she needed to absolutely get a few hours sleep, but Clara attended to all of the basic chores of her husband’s illness. For the first three years of this ordeal she hardly even left the house except for the most pressing obligations, and even then she would rush back home anxiously with her mind full of visions of disaster.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Birthday party, parts 3795 - 3798

 3795. One time Anya’s husband pointed out to her that she sometimes dressed in a way that was so revealing that it was almost embarrassing for him at social gatherings. Anya was dumbfound by her husband’s remark, and at first had difficulty even understanding what he was talking about. Her husband said to her, “Anya dear, the dress you are wearing is so shear that you can clearly see your…” But here he stammered a little and would not go on.

 3796. When finally Anya understood what he was talking about she said, “Doctor Herzenstube has told me that I must get as much fresh air and sunshine as possible, especially on my chest which is so easily congested, so I have no choice in the matter.”

 3797. “But Anya,” her husband said, “Someone not aware of those doctors orders might get the wrong idea about you and then…” Here again he could not go on and became flustered. “Well really,” replied Anya, if that were to ever happen it would simply be their problem and not mine.” 

3798. There in a nutshell you can see Anya’s naive temperament, which caused her go through life trashing the hearts of gentlemen left and right, and seemingly not aware of the her devastation.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Birthday party, parts 3791 - 3794

  3791. At such times Harriet, or Clara, or even both of them would rush to sooth her and swear their devotion to her. They would apologize to her and not let her go until she would relent and return to the dinner table. In truth Harriet and her sister Clara deeply loved and respected Frieda, simply because she said the things they thought and felt themselves, but were too cowardly to utter, especially in front of their husbands, no matter how indulgent those husbands may have seemed on occasion.

 3792. The fourth woman at the birthday party was Harriet's nearest neighbor during the summer months. She and her husband rented a cottage on Harriet's husband's estate just for the month of August. Her name was Anya. Anya was a tremendous flirt with everyone except her husband, whom she treated with slavish devotion. 

 3793. To see Anya in action among a crowd of her many admires one would have thought she was a woman of multiple affairs and liaisons, but the opposite was the case. She was prudish in the extreme, and became profoundly indignant if one of the suggestive remarks she was fond of making to some young man resulted in any advances towards her person.

  3794. You might guess that Anya was attractive in the extreme, and you would be correct. Her face was round and she had a slight double chin. Her hair was naturally jet black and somewhat curly. Her most prominent feature were her eyes, one of which was slightly slanted, and a little narrower than the other giving her a cat-like somewhat Tartar look.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Birthday Party, parts 3787 - 3790

 3787. The guests at Harriet’s birthday party consisted of Ivan, the sculptor, and the painter of icons whose name was Peter. The women were Harriet herself, her sister Clara, Frieda who was a student studying Botany at the University. Frieda was twenty-eight, had red hair and a fiery temperament to go with it. 

 3788. She had been hired some years ago to be a tutor to Harriet’s children, but over time had been adopted into the family as almost an older sister to the children. Frieda was very opinionated, and would sometimes become terrible angry and annoyed in a discussion, especially if the topic was politics or women's rights.

  3789. But the truth was that Harriet's family and friends  considered Frieda’s outbursts to be a form of entertainment, and she was especially favored with invitations to dinner parties because her rages were considered comic in the extreme. She was thought of almost as a spice to be added to a dish, to add zest.

3790. Although Frieda was laughed at, still she was very respected, but sometimes her feelings were hurt if something she said was ridiculed and laughed at. At those times she would suddenly stand up from the table, draw herself up to her full height of six foot three, and turn and leave the room stifling her tears of anger.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Schism, parts 3783 - 3786

 3783. The question of whether a person has all four grandparents still alive as an adult may not sound like a thing of any importance, but it is. The Romans of the Imperial period considered it an essential prerequisite for any person chosen to be one of the emperor’s personal guards. Why would this be? 

 3784. It was because a person, who has all four grandparents alive, as well as both parents, has never been subjected to the shock and emotional disruption of death. Death is a thing, more than any other that leads a person to question all authority. One not only questions all authority, but one is tempted to question the very source of all creation, that being God Himself. 

 3785. It often happens that a child subjected to the experience of the sudden death of a parent, will curse God and proclaim that God cannot exist, and if God does exist, then he must be a suspect, perhaps guilty of the great crimes of human experience. For such a person, God is a primal force to be sought out and attacked, rather than worshiped. From the ranks of these then come the revolutionaries, and revolutionaries do not make good palace guards.

3786. Ivan was an exception however. With him just the reverse had happened. He could not measure up to his father’s and his grandfather’s expectations and so he became disgruntled. Because the seed of revolutionary ideas had been planted in his soul accidentally, he began to despise the society in which his ancestors had thrived, even though he was a natural part of it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Schism, parts 3779 - 3782

 3779. He felt that he could infuse a new spirit of realism into the age-old practice of painting images of Christ, Mary and the various saints. He went for long journeys into peasant villages always looking for faces and figures to use in his work. When he found someone with a suitable character he would make quick sketches in a notebook he carried, and later he would elaborate his sketches into drawings.

 3780. He was one of those happy people who are totally convinced of the correctness of their views, so much so that it did not even enter his head to question his plans for the future.

 3781. He looked forward to the day when he could set up his own studio after he finished his apprenticeship. He was either unaware or indifferent to the growing antagonism in educated society to all things religious and metaphysical.  

3782. His commitment to his calling was so complete that he planned to enter a monastery and become a monk. There was an odd similarity between this painter, and the sculptor that had been invited to Harriet’s birthday party. They both had two grandfathers, and two grandmothers living at the time of the events we are relating.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Schism, parts 3775 - 3778

 3775. The small statues of Christ Ivan carved were not much of a challenge for him, even with his limited abilities, because they were all copied from a form created by some unknown master years ago, and the procedures involved to reproduce the images were so formalized that each step was both numbered and named. It seemed to Ivan that even a blind person could have hacked out the shapes he was required to create; so mechanical was the process. 

 3776. It was there in the ornaments department of the funeral parlor that Ivan met Harriet’s husband, at a time when he was there to make arrangements for Aunt Marfa’s funeral. He was introduced as the son and grandson of the creator of the famous equestrian statue that had been in the news of late.

3777. Because of that introduction Ivan was treated as a master craftsman, even though the work he was performing in the monument department indicated that he was not the master he was mistake for. Harriet’s husband, as we mentioned before, was not about to make any observations about the quality of Ivan’s work, since sculpture was all the same to him

3778. The painter Harriet’s husband invited to her birthday party was a different sort of person altogether. He had learned his trade in the guilds of the icon makers and was considered destined to become a true master of the art. Not content to utilize the tin stencils in use from time immemorial to outline the shapes of the figures in various icons, he drew his shapes from nature.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Schism, parts 3771 - 3774

 3771. Then there is another dangerous kind of criticism; it is the criticism that aims to destroy the very objectives of the work itself, and attacks the rudimentary assumptions on which the work is based. It is a philosophical attack, and takes the form of an existential undermining of the unspoken purposes of ones life.

 3772. The most effective of the first type of criticism leads the artist to gradually perfect their art, and the most effective example of the second type leads the artist to abandon art altogether.

 3773. Ivan had never in his life heard this type of criticism that not only questioned the objectives of his family’s art, but went so far as to question the structures of society itself. He did not stay to listen to what those gentlemen had to say about what sort of art they though artists should produce, and what kind of society they thought should be the replacement of the monarchy under which he lived, but it is just as well because listening to conversations like that often led to incarceration.

3774. Ivan returned to his father’s workshop, and the effect of his experience was not in evidence. Over the next few weeks and months he began to assert himself by making very small figure studies in wax. By working on very small figures he managed to overcome his tendency to see in parts only, and although he had a little success, his father saw fit to hire him out to a funeral service where he was employed carving small statues of Christ for funeral monuments.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Schism, parts 3767 - 3770

 3767. The first point of judgment would be about the thrust of the entire work and the effect it had as a whole. Regardless of the precision of the anatomy of a figure, the artist was asked if the work, in its totality, when seen from a great distance, was a triangle, a rectangle, or a square.

 3768. If a student, lulled by the rhetorical trick of the question, answered by choosing any of those three shapes, he found himself to be instantly in the wrong. “No,” the master would shout, “the totality of a piece of sculpture can never be a square, but only a cube. The totality of a work can never be a triangle, but only some form of a pyramid.”

 3769. In this way, from the beginning, a student in Ivan’s father’s studio learned to think always in three dimensions, and not in the two dimensions of drawing and painting.

3770. The criticism Ivan had to digest after he listen to the conversation next to the equestrian statue of his Grandfather’s was of an entirely different kind, and of a different magnitude. There are two types of criticism in this world. There is the criticism that strives to instruct the student in how to accomplish the longing of the artist heart. Then there is another form of criticism, more drastic and pernicious.