Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The question of faith

Santos in Farrier Wrap

The unlikely aligning of:
Cintra and Ian's new baby,
A story on the return of Khmer pieces to the Museum in Phnom Penh,
Ramadan’s start and
my santos’ role in a store display last weekend -

have me thinking about faith.

(with accompaniment of Lou Reed Busload of Faith and Patrick Kavanagh's Advent.)

Instead of falling asleep next to R last night (as he read), brain ticked on.

Here goes:
These days, I'm an antique dealer. Though I’d like to go out with lots of attributions trailing (traveler, writer, collager, photographer, lateral thinker, designer …), for now “antiques dealer” suits and answers the question neatly.

As an antique dealer, I harbor the conflicting impulses that I think define the breed:
to hoard vs. to flaunt, own/sell, collect/start fresh. And underlying, the driving desire to introduce, or re-introduce, a beauty/oddity/gem to the world.

It’s a pursuit suited to the exceedingly vain with some strain of the teacher in their make-up.

The saint shown here is my beauty, found in a not-so-hidden store on SoHo's far edge. I dress her for holidays, make her berry wreaths and photograph her often. With her dark glass eyes and expression of bemused benevolence, she is exquisite as if the word was invented for her. She’s priceless (not for sale, a Circa Trade siren) - showing the perfectibility of form, face and humans.

Amazing to me is that, like all devotional art really, she was made anonymously; infused with grace but un-signed and so sent into the church or put upon some altar as an offering. Like a thangka, an icon, a handwritten Koran, a vestment, her maker had the faith to not only create pure beauty - for it is true that everyone who encounters my saint is enchanted - but then to give it away.

I emailed with friend Masood the other day. He’s begun Ramadan and, though counting the days till he may again eat during daylight and begin mornings with coffee, he said he welcomes the chance to reconnect with his Allah. He can, for this month of fasting, lean back into his faith.

Training back into faith by re-learning the language of devotion. Each year, re-arriving at the wonder.

So, could a faithless man create a perfect santos?

Is an antiques dealer - faithless but seeking like myself - a sort of scavenger on the edges of other people's faiths?

Is my faith restored by, or built on, the miracle of Cin and Ian's wonderfully healthy baby?

Or forever broken by losing Lindsey in the creation of Hudson.

To misquote Didion: The question of faith.


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