Monday, April 16, 2012

No One is Perfect

We all know that no one is perfect, even though we may at times want to defend our heroes from their frailties. Many times I have a hunch that we- and our heroes- end up working out our frailties - our salvation- in fear and trembling.

I thought of the other week when the artist Thomas Kinkade died. (Wiki) I never knew much about him other than his paintings that always seemed to me to be a little too schmaltzy, over-the-top with his images of light. When he died I read some of the articles and found that there were stories of a darker side to Kinkade. Stories of drunken behavior, possible sexual harassment, crude actions and language. This from the "Painter of Light"?

Sure. Why not? Then it struck me that perhaps that painting style, the over-the-top desire to present the presence of light so strongly in his work was an attempt to work out his own salvation in fear and trembling. There in his paintings may very well be the attempts at his own exorcisms, the desire to bring light into his darkness and in that work allow the light to overcome the darkness.

No, I don't mean in some way that he was trying to earn his salvation. I mean it as an act of pilgrimage or penitence or personal reflection. As he painted, I wondered, did he try to absorb that light to overcome his own demons? Did he seek to connect more fully with his God as he placed the light into those scenes? Did he see the light seeping in through the cracks in his own soul?

It made me think of Mother Theresa, as well. (Wiki) On the Wikipedia page for her:

Privately, Mother Teresa experienced doubts and struggles over her religious beliefs which lasted nearly 50 years until the end of her life, during which "she felt no presence of God whatsoever", "neither in her heart or in the eucharist" as put by her postulator Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk. Mother Teresa expressed grave doubts about God's existence and pain over her lack of faith... [He] indicated there was a risk that some might misinterpret her meaning, but her faith that God was working through her remained undiminished, and that while she pined for the lost sentiment of closeness with God, she did not question his existence.
Actually, I think many of us do that. It may be our way to find meaning, to journey through the darkness toward a light that calls us in the deepest portions of our soul. I don't think that diminishes the work of Mother Theresa nor does it call into question the faith and spirit that Kinkade wanted people to see. Rather it all reminds us that we are all earthen vessels, weak and powerless human beings who are prone to mess up as much as we build up.

Thanks be to God for His grace!

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UPDATE: I originally wrote this just after Easter but pushed the posting date out to today. I expected something to come out by today that would confirm my suspicions.  Well, such information did come out on Friday. The LA Times reported:
Artist Thomas Kinkade had been battling alcoholism for years and apparently suffered a relapse just prior to his unexpected death last week.

On April 6, the dispatcher who sent a fire truck to Kinkade's home reported a “54-year-old male unconscious, not breathing," according to a recording on

"Apparently he's been drinking all night and not moving," the dispatcher said after Kinkade's live-in girlfriend called 911. He was pronounced dead at his home.

The painter's official cause of death will be determined by the Santa Clara County Coroner’s office, whose autopsy results are still pending.
Due to my particular profession, experiences, and history, I silently assumed we would discover addiction/alcoholism. No I am not clairvoyant. I just adhere to the words of a Episcopal priest friend many years ago:
Every time someone walks into my office with problems I assume alcoholism until proven otherwise.

And then I continue to suspect it.
More to come at some future date.

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