Rendered Fat Content


The Mystical Nativity, Sandro Botticelli, c. 1500–1501

Forget The Melting Pot, we're more rightly a stew.

In Botticelli's Renaissance masterwork The Mystical Nativity, symbolism seems thicker than the paint. He tried to depict the end of an apocalyptic time, when, after three and a half years rampaging around in the world, The Devil and his associates were relegated back into the underworld from which they came. Creepy looking angels dance above while others embrace "men of goodwill" along the bottom of the work. Both Mary and the Baby Jesus appear larger than life, a throwback perspective from times when photographic projection was often modified, with most important objects inflated larger than supporting ones. Overall, it appears as a busy image, but depicts a joyful time, for it shows a great evil exiting the world.

Some within each generation before and since sincerely believed that they were the chosen few, the ones intended to actually experience the apocalypse, apparently a longed-for honor among True Believers.
Latter Days, they call these times, jackpot payoff collection time when Earth becomes Heaven and all the wicked finally receive their just desserts, by which I mean the True Believers finally get revenge for former humiliations. I've never been able to resolve this scenario with the conflicting notion that everyone is basically a child of a benevolent God, but then I never could quite muster True Belief, a state I consider more dangerous than beneficent. I question more readily than I ever accept.

Looking at this painting, I can't avoid a small act of projection, for we're three and a half years into a devil rampaging around our world. I'd name that devil Division, maybe even Long Division, the evil distinction insisting upon the crude and cruel dichotomy Us and Them. This devil came to power through the curious attraction of vilification, not by ever attempting to unify us, but by simply rending us ever further apart. He brought his aptly-named base along, and performed exclusively for their encouragement, though both his and his bases' courage seemed at best questionable. Both seemed distinctly cowardly, thrusting crude prejudices at cardboard cutout enemies, inflicting real damage, though, to the many Others opposing his reign, and even gleefully, to themselves. Anything to further divide.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been busily undermining these concerted efforts to continue dividing us. Anyone—rich, poor, old, young, healthy, sick, handsome, homely, innocent, guilty, elite, effete—could contract the virus and nobody could guarantee that it would not get them, an egalitarian boogyman, and us without defense except by coming together to isolate ourselves to avoid infecting each other. Them and Us combined into a single, powerful, and effective force. Distracting distinctions started falling away. At the risk of sounding like some latter day
Savonarola, I might say that the divisive Us vs Them devil might have finally encountered the limit of his relevant range, his strange superpower meeting its Kryptonite. Let the angels dance and embrace while the devils scurry back into their rightful underworld place.

What becomes of that weary old, outdated Us vs Them now that we're reentering this devil's latter days? I suppose that a great melding might be in order, not a melting pot but more of a simmering pot, Us vs Them could combine to produce a supper worthy of all of us, a ThUs: part what was formerly known as Them and all of what we used to defensively refer to as Us brought together in the interest of nourishing everyone. Whatever attributes seemed to render each unique might reasonably be preserved, with only the dichotomous discarded. Whatever delusions divided us can scurry back into their underworld, for we have finally encountered our real enemy and it was neither us nor them, but a pesky, deadly little virus unable to meaningfully distinguish between Us and Them.

The virus popped a dimension. While we distracted ourselves on the Us vs Them plane, it surrounded us from an unseen and unsensed direction. Like the inhabitants of Flatland, we'd never experienced true 3D, and we crawled around between points we could not rise up high enough to see coming or going. Higher and deeper purposes became utterly lost on us and them when we focused upon Us vs Them. The virus introduced a transcendent dimension, a neither/nor rather than the all too familiar either/or. That ragged distinction couldn't help but take it in the shorts. We're ThUsly transformed, or could be if we'd care enough to become, or simply let ThUs come. The devil always departs kicking and screaming through his freshly discovered irrelevance. He screeches as he exits, but let none of us attend to his exiting distractions. He's drama and we're up to more serious business integrating former them-s and us-s into ThUs. WhatNow? How about a heart-felt Amen?

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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