Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2012.05.30 Necessary Drunkenness?

One of the scornful accusations leveled at the people in the pentecostal parable in the New Testament, in which hundreds went ecstatic and spoke and understood in many languages, was that these religious nuts were drunk! 

Excuses were quickly made by Peter: “No, no they can’t be drunk. It’s only 9 a.m.!”  When that story is read in church everyone usually laughs— out loud.

I’ve often made excuses about my spiritual experience, even though I’m not the ecstasy type. Anglo/WASP/New England, you know.

Not long ago we went to New York's Museum of Modern Art to see a special exhibit  featuring Willem deKooning’s  paintings of Woman and a major work, Excavation, his largest painting up to 1950. 

We liked Excavation but found it somewhat colorless, drab, and overly gray.  I felt guilty. This man was acclaimed. I remembered liking his work somewhere in my own ancient history, like college. Maybe it was because we were getting old and graying ourselves.

As we moved through the exhibit the paintings took on more color, flamboyance. And more abstraction. Nary a nose or a big eye to let you know there was supposed to be a person—and no outsized nippled breasts either! 

And we loved it!

Later I told an artist friend we’d been a bit disappointed by the work that had been touted as his best. She gave a wry snort and said something like “Well, the colorful stuff was painted when he was drinking more and more.” We laughed.

“Hey,” I told Dick. “The de Kooning stuff we liked the best was his alkie stuff!” 

Of course I know sobriety is a better bet, but there’s a reason why the Bible remembers the grandiose biblical story of collective spiritual ecstasy at Pentecost.  It wasn’t the first appearance of Spirit but this one was a big splash—rushing winds, tongues of fire.  They were speaking about God and God’s mighty deeds so I suppose anything could happen—and it did.

Peter’s attempt to explain it away, but certainly not as morning-after “drunkenness,” was funny.  

 About as funny as our preferring the alcohol-inspired work of a great artist.

I think everyone is an alcoholic at some level and some time, or at least we all go through necessary drunkenness to break into the divine outer, even for just a day or a minute or for the sake of a couple of blow-out paintings.