Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Monet and the colour of souls

Trinity's curiosity about life is huge. Ginormous! I am entertained, baffled, tickled and perplexed as to how to answer all the questions she has fairly, without prejudice, factually and yet simply enough that she can understand. She asks questions that none of the other children have ever asked. Some of these are tough to answer. 

Our conversation leaps from topic to topic at lightning speed. One question triggers off another and so on. 

Our conversation started with souls. Deep stuff. Even theologians struggle with this one. I try my best to tackle it valiantly. She asks: who controls our soul? Does our skeleton control our soul? Does our soul grow old when we grow old? What happens to our souls when we die? How do our souls get out of our bodies? 

So I have to give an answer that is reflective of our Catholic faith since we are Catholics. But I also struggle at certain points and I suspect I might have been treading water several times and gone under. I try to explain about conscience - the knowledge between good and bad, and the decisions we make that impact our conscience and hence, our soul. I explain that if we take care of it, our souls will look beautiful when we are dead but if we neglect it and abuse it through wrongful actions, mean words and mean thoughts, then our soul will look shriveled, old and dirty, so how do you go to heaven if your soul is dirty? Gosh, I didn't even get into purgatory yet! 

Luckily she veered off and asked: so what does heaven look like? 

I answer honestly: I don't know. And here is where I am very clear. If I do not have the answer, I say so. If I think I don't know, or I'm not sure, I admit it. I say it is my opinion or that some people think that way - I clarify that not every one shares the same view. She doesn't really care at this point because she just wants MY point of view. 

So then I do what everyone else does - I google it! 

Her next question was about bad angels. Are all angels good? Yes I say, today. But once, there were bad angels. And here's where I tell her about the fall of Lucifer. We google images to see. Lots of great art surfaces. Then she says hey mum, do you know a painting about water lilies and lily pads? The artist's name starts with an M. I name him - Monet, to her delight. Yes that's the one! Kudos to her art teacher for exposing her to Claude Monet. Wow. When I was 8, Monet was far far removed from my sphere of influences! 

So I google Monet and his famous series of water lilies. She zeroes in on Monet and the Manneporte (Etretat). When I try to explain to her that this was a rock arch in the sea, she waves me off impatiently and says: look at the sun shining on the rock mummy! It looks like a rainbow to me! I know its a rock but I like this part! I guess that is art appreciation at its purest eh? That immediate gut response to a piece of work. 

How did Monet die mummy? Lung cancer I explain. What is lung cancer? And so it goes. From there, she asks about how the heart beats, I explain about the function of the heart, the mitral valves, the structure, what happens in a heart attack, how the heart and lungs are protected by the ribcage and the sternum, what happens when cancer strikes, what are cancer cells, and all these leads weirdly, to Sandy Squirrel and how she can breathe oxygen in a space suit. Her last question of the night was: is there oxygen in space? 

From metaphysics to religion, to art and art history to biology in the space of an hour. 

I treasure this time and I appreciate this opportunity. I enjoy it even when I don't have the answers.  I enjoy it because it  feels like a journey I take too. There is a satisfaction when you see her eyes light up in understanding.I enjoy her sense of curiosity. I don't want to extinguish it. I'm glad that the grind of school has not yet killed this in her. We live in an age when information is so readily available but all that is moot if one lacks the curiosity to venture and to explore. More importantly, if I lacked the patience to help her explore all these ideas. So I guess in this way, I am sort of unschooling? 

If so, thank you Joseph Chilton Pearce for inspiring me to answer the infinite and difficult questions with patience and thank you Sergey Brin - I couldn't do it as efficiently without Google. 

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