Matthew Fox tells the story in his book Creativity, about a group of fundamentalists who became the majority on a New Hampshire county school board. Their first decree was to not allow the use of the word “imagination” in the classroom. When Mr. Fox inquired what they were afraid of they said, “Satan. Satan lives in the imagination.”
Greco-Romans in Egypt during the first few centuries after Christ commissioned artists to paint their portraits, often in encaustic, on wood panels that were then affixed to their mummified bodies. These mummy portraits, though painted after death, depicted living subjects, their closed eyes re-opened (and in some cases, mightily enlarged) by the artist’s brush. Comparative studies suggest that, while the paintings are somewhat stylized, they bore a strong resemblance to the people they represented. The old were depicted as old, the young as young, and a facial reconstruction of at least one mummy is a dead ringer for the man in the portrait. The Fayum mummy portraits, in other words, are fairly accurate pictures of people who lived nearly two millennia ago, painted in a style that could pass for contemporary.
Federico Fellini’s epic semi-autobiographical film, 8 1/2, explores the complex interrelationship between the process of making art and the very human attempt to re-narrate and make sense of our lives. Guido, the film’s protagonist, is a director wrestling with his own limitations and the demands of his fans, critics, and producers as he experiences an artistic stalemate.
Youth hasn’t got anything to do with chronological age. It’s times of hope and happiness.
~ Wallace Stegner, Crossing To Safety
There is a grace in the way our bodies are made that lets us avoid looking too often or too long at the evidences of our years. Our parts are arranged so that we look out and reflect on life around us. This may be a comfort lost on younger readers. There are a couple of things about aging that take aging to appreciate: first, all the excitement of first experiences pales in the slow burn of getting it just right; and second, humans are beset with the appearance of age for about twice as long as the appearance of youth. (See other reasons to celebrate aging here.) Still, mirrors become less important and smiles become the essential accessory.
I didn’t know exactly what would come of it: I was washing lettuce under the cold-water tap, separating crisp fans of it from a few shapeless leaves. The fans would soon line a new green bowl. Into that, I would throw cuts of onion, tomato, more lettuce, avocado, and jicama. And all those pieces would make something that had not existed until that moment.