"White Lilac", 1882-83, Edouard Manet
In a crystal vase, bathed in sunlight, Manet's White Lilac has no function except to exist. In the last year of his life, wretchedly shortened through illness, Manet painted several of these vases of simple flowers. Their singleness of being must have moved him and perhaps consoled him, amid the anxieties and anguishes of his own pain-filled days. Contemplation has something of this function: a simplifying, a beautifying. It reminds us that we have only to be still and let the waters of grace refresh us and the sunlight of peace shine upon us.
Jessica and I have been to a hand-full of live concerts by the Avett Brothers. We actually attended this one at Vienna Virginia's Wolf Trap. It was only the second time they played this song publicly. They have a series of tunes with the appropriate name "Untitled #" with a cardinal number following. They are works in progress, taking form, undergoing change. Some begin as a series of chord changes or a melody line, while others may be an emotion that is longing to be birthed into sonic ecosphere. At the end of this tune as the music is fading, Scott sings "reminder to self" following the chorus "I am happier with nothing". I've witnessed other performances where the words were "aspiring to be". Somewhere in his soul there is a desire for simplicity. To want what we have rather than find ourselves diminished in the pursuit of more, never satisfied having what we want. To receive the present as a gift. This desire is tempered by the fact that much of life is a struggle of opposing desires. I'm aspiring to be the person that is ok with what I have. I need to be reminded that life is a gift. That the Creator's sun and rain fall on the fields of the righteous and the unrighteous gratuitously. That God in Jesus Christ doesn't share this same aspirational struggle of desire. God is gift; unchangingly so...without shift or shadow. May you be reminded this day...May you contemplate...that God created you in joy, and redeems you in love, and sustains your existence in fidelity. That never changes.
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
- Psalm 103:1-5