Hours turn into days, and days turn into weeks, and I notice nothing. I don't even see myself, anymore. I am no longer apart. The waves of life carry me toward the shores of death. I no longer refuse. I perform the motions of life: family, work, state, but because I no longer seek another way, I drown in the sea of nothingness. The pantomime existence of the masses. Vast eons of life passed this way, with the unthinking multitude, the daily suicide shirking the responsibility of life, which is to remove oneself from the counterfeit of the world, and seek the Kingdom.
Only the shock of tragedy jolts me from the stupor. My latest fall into the sleep of the living dead was arrested as I was walking down Main Street and observed a fat woman training a dog to become a Seeing Eye. What horror! The poor beast leashed to the human gob, its neck yanked, choked, every time it tried to seek its way. The dog's will destined to be broken, it will submit to an unworthy master. I immediately recognized myself in the dog, regained my senses and vomited right there on the sidewalk from the sickness of *everyday life.*
To begin the healing process, to boost my immunity to herd living, I visit an art museum. I've frequented museums all across the United States and Europe, and even though most works housed in them are worthless—imbecilic portrayals of Mary and Jesus, technically fine but thematically somnolent studies of bowls of fruit, incompetent nonrepresentational stains—the diligent patron will always find three or four pieces which accuse and convict humanity of auto-lobotomy. These rare treasures exaggerate human experience, exposing the sad sell-out of the peasant and lumpenproletariat classes, ancient to contemporary. (Van Gogh's The Potato Eaters is a fine example.) Outside of the supernatural, there is nothing better for the soul than to stand for an hour or two in front of such a painting or sculpture, confirming a guilty verdict for the *general public.*
Thus I found myself in the Toledo Museum of Art, wandering its halls in search of creations which scandalize the social order. I wade through the usual dreck, Monet's water lilies—the perfect packaging for air fresheners. . .busted Roman sculptures—tiny-cocked nudes missing a limb or two, lacking the wit even of a garden gnome. . .Rothko's honestly titled *Untitled,*—a red rectangle between two black rectangles, quintessential usury art.
As I make my way, I notice again a phenomenon common to museums: very few single men among the guests. Besides myself I note only two or three others. There are plenty of single women, of all ages, but almost no single men. Almost all the males are attached to a female, or a female and children. These men no doubt satisfied with a cheap date or family outing which they can redeem later for a blow job or a few hours peace in front of a televised football game. Curious: nearly all museum-worthy artists are male, but most males have no interest in art. There must be some rare genetic syndrome which affects a tiny portion of the male population, some abnormality of the genes or chromosomes which creates in the afflicted a deviate frame of reference, which they attempt to reconcile by casting it in paint or stone.
On my tour through the galleries, I do note one particular lone male. An older gentleman, wearing pressed slacks and a crisp clean button shirt. He stands motionless in rapt gaze before one of the Museum's more curious pieces: William-Adolphe Bouguereau's The Captive. Bouguereau, a late 19th century master realist with a gOOfball's sentiment, seems to me rather underappreciated compared to some of his avant-garde contemporaries, perhaps due to his taste in subject matter, which might be described as early Larry Clark. In any event, this gentleman seems transfixed by the depiction of the winged nude girl who has just captured a butterfly.
I contemplate the peculiar image, trying to discern its allure for my fellow patron. The girl's face and the body don't seem to match. The face seems that of a teen or young woman, while the body seems decidedly tweenish, flat-chested with baby-fatted arms and legs. Perhaps this is how Bouguereau imagined angels or fairies or whatever the winged nude is meant to be? These other-worldly females adult in mind, but juvenile in body? Intelligent, but innocent? The pre-Adamic, untainted by Eve's lusts?
Then again, maybe just extra-terrestrial jailbait?
"It lacks one critical element, otherwise it would be a pinnacle of Western culture."
Since we are the only two near the painting, I assume the older gentleman is making the remark for my benefit, rather than talking to himself aloud.
He turns, facing me.
"Do you know what it is?"
"Do I know what what is?" I ask.
"Do you know what it lacks, what critical element it lacks?"
The man's shirt is very nice, a light blue-and-white checked pattern. It looks brand new, one of those classic cotton dress shirts you see in Von Maur, one of those one hundred dollar shirts that make you stop and wonder who can afford to spend a hundred dollars for just one shirt. I don't think I've ever spent more than twenty-five dollars for a shirt. Years and years ago, at a Ralph Lauren outlet store, I spent twenty-five dollars and got a fantastic Hawaiian shirt that was missing a button. I like Von Maur, however. A great store. I've never bought anything there, but I admire their merchandise, and, particularly, the store itself, the ambiance. They usually have an older woman in a black evening dress playing the piano, and the bathrooms are elegant and spotlessly clean. The store is never crowded, never any ethnic teenage riffraff. Sometimes I go to Von Maur and sit in one of their comfortable arm chairs for twenty or thirty minutes, meditating to the soft piano music. Perhaps when I die I will leave whatever savings I have to them, as a thank you.
"Give up?" the man in the hundred dollar shirt asks.
I look back at the painting.
"What's missing?" the man asks. "Look closely."
"Well. . ." and I think about why I am at the museum, searching for images of man's soulicide. Certainly this isn't one of them. But the man who painted this was alive, no doubt. I remember Jesus' words: I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. This painter was certainly not lukewarm. No, Bouguereau was hot. He burned.
"Well. . .and not as an insult. . .but this picture lacks subtlety. It lacks all subtlety. Here's a guy who surely loved to paint naked girls. A guy who just burned to paint naked girls. He wasn't subtle about it, obviously. But here is a man who truly lived. . .if only for naked girls."
The man in the hundred dollar shirt doesn't seem to like my answer. His face is crinkled with dissent.
"No, that's not what I meant! It's missing an actual specific thing!"
I could tell him that subtlety is an actual specific thing, but that would just lead to a tiresome exchange. I get the impression this fellow thinks he's an expert on whatever is in front of him.
A young woman pushing a stroller passes by. I've lived long enough now that the sight of a baby or a toddler fills me with incredible sadness. An agonizing sadness. I see all the moments of pain in front of the poor thing. The endless disappointments, the hopelessness. So depressing. . .
"A vagina!" the expert says.
"That lady that just came by?"
"No! The painting! It's missing a vagina."
Hmmn, that's a little. . .quirky.
"Well, I might've guessed a halo, or maybe a rainbow or something, but I don't think I would've guessed a vagina. I mean, in the first place, it's not really missing, is it? You just can't see it. I mean, I'd assume it's there, that it's meant to be there."
The face of the expert in the one hundred dollar shirt crinkles again.
"The artist who painted this wants us to see the natural order, and man's place at the center, yet he deliberately left out the birthplace of humankind, the vagina, from where we originate and then enter the natural realm. Whether it was because of social convention, or his own timidity, he shames the vagina in invisibility, and places those absurd wings on the girl, like she fluttered down from some imaginary heaven! He might as well have a stork flying overhead!"
"'Oh?' 'Oh?' My friend, the vagina is life! Trust me, I know! If there is one thing I know, it's the vagina. I know the breadth and length and depth and height of the vagina. I'm an OB/GYN. I know."
OBGYN? I take a closer look at this fellow. Nothing unusual. Just looks like an ordinary older white male. And what the Hell is an OBGYN, anyway? I don't think I know that one. There are so many, nowadays. OBGYN? O? Uh. . .organic? Is that a thing, now? B is for bisexual and G is for gay. Y? N? Yin Yang, maybe?
"Organic Bisexual Gay Yin Yang?"
"OBGYN. Organic Bisexual Gay—"
Oh, boy, don't I feel stupid? Well, maybe this will put an end to the conversation.
"I've examined, in the most rigorous detail, thousands of vaginas. From the young and healthy, with robust mucosal tissue, to the old and fetid, with their dry, flimsy. . ."
Apparently not. As the vagina doctor lectures on, I tune out, and retreat into an appreciative contemplation of the museum experience: rooms within rooms, sanctums from which we access the history of man's attempt to understand human experience. A little group of three women wander from painting to painting, sculpture to sculpture, now and then offering their quiet observations to each other. They all have fat asses, but, God bless them, anyway. A guard stands near this gallery's entrance, seeing that no harm comes to the treasures of creation. Yes, treasures. Treasures, as mediocre as most of them are. They are the pitiful record of man's feeble attempt to make sense of life. A despondency settles over me. Art is over. It's gone. It's lost. There was the Renaissance, Mannerism, the Baroque, Romanticism, Modern Art. The Museum of the Future is electronic, the Selfie Period. Creation is about creation, we were created out of the void, and our struggle in space and time to—
". . .an incredible range of motion, support and pressure, which is what holds the tampon in place during—"
This guy won't shut up!
"Hey, man, how much did you pay for that shirt?"
Anger is rising within me. I have to walk away from this imbecilic cunt-sniffer, this absurd beneficiary of a socioeconomic system that rewards banality.
I leave the museum, sit stewing in my car.
Everything is wrong with the world. Everything. But I am awake again. You know you are awake when you are filled with disgust.
If any man would seek the Kingdom of God, he is obliged to go against the human tide.
God save me from slumber, do not let me rest easy in the mire. . .may I always hear the call from Heaven:
Come out of her, My people. . .
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