Monday, October 08, 2007

What I’ve learned from Cezanne and other people smarter than me

Cezanne, Vessels Basket and Fruit, 1888-90

If you look at the left front edge of Cezanne’s table in this painting and then look at the right edge, you notice that there’s something strange happening. Either Cezanne was drunk or he deliberately painted the table from two different angles. He was not drunk. Cezanne knew that all objects exist in time and space and just because our human vision only experiences one angle at once doesn’t mean our human minds aren’t simultaneously aware of all the other options. Cezanne—the most cerebral and philosophical of painters—is asking us to set aside our ingrained assumption that a painting should frame a single point of view. He wants us to admit that art and life are complex and multidimensional things.

I bring this up because I have been lamenting a post I wrote last week about an act of conspicuous Jell-O production. I am not happy with how mean-spirited I came across in that post and I wanted to delete it several times. But I also wanted to apologize first, which I’m doing here. If ever it was possible to hold two completely contrary viewpoints in one’s head at the same time, such was the case with the Jell-O. I was both offended by the salad (offense combined with equal parts jealousy, self-loathing, and general grumpiness) and impressed with the care that went into it. After all, my neighbor chose to share her talents and time. And who did she share them with? ME! (oh, and a bunch of other women, but we're talking about me here). It was an act of thoughtfulness and generosity on her part and even if there was the tiniest hope that she would get a bit of praise and a few compliments (one being from me) out of it then who am I to begrudge her that?

So I could have gone either way in my verbal painting of the evening and I chose to go with the single-minded, negative slant. Frankly, I went for the humor. I laughed as I typed the blog post (I’m still amused that I finally got a chance to tell the “Diane’s house is too clean to clean” story) and in my new spirit of posting more and editing less, I posted it without thinking it through.

I should have thought it through.

Because I know better. I have written two other snarky posts that I regretted later and deleted (one about my husband going deer hunting and another about poorly-written student papers). Whenever I try to put my tongue in my cheek I somehow manage to stick it out very rudely.

What really got me regretting the post was the thought that many of my family members and good friends share their “virtuosity” in generous ways as well. Once when she came to visit, my friend Tara (chef, artist, all-around classy person) showed us how to make dipped and ornamented Oreos. We had a blast making them and when we gave a few to our friend Gayle, she loved that we were giving her these little masterpieces.

My sister-in-law Echo makes birthday cards so intricate and personalized that we all can’t wait to see what ours will look like. Last Thanksgiving, my sister Teri spent about 2 hours helping me skewer vegetables and assemble them like a flower arrangement so that I would have something fun to contribute to my in-laws’ dinner. My mother has decorated wedding cakes Martha Stewart would drool over (does Martha drool? Does it come out in French twists? Am I getting rude again?).

I think we all have things we do well and love to share with others. I once had time to quilt (alas, in another life) and I made this I-Spy quilt for my friend Kathy’s baby. It took me so many hours to make that the baby was nearly 18 months old before I finally finished it. Did I do this to impress her and make everyone who saw it envious? No. I made it because I love my friend and I like to make quilts and I wanted to try something really challenging for a change.

Anyway, it has all been yet another learning experience. Here’s what I’ve come up with thus far:

1. Don’t write when I’m grumpy
2. Don’t write mean stuff.
3. Not even when it’s supposed to be funny.
4. Because it might be funny but it’s still mean.
5. When I’m offended, look at all the angles.
6. Look again.
7. Then look at myself in the mirror.
8. Wipe off the mirror because it’s covered in toothpaste.
9. Jello is spelled Jell-O
10. Go ask my neighbor for her Jell-O recipe because I should really make it someday for my family.
11. They’ll LOVE it.


Jen said...

This is a good post, although I don't consider Jell-O to be a food and avoid it at all costs.... :D

It is so true that we should ask ourselves "what can I learn from her" instead of "how can anyone be that amazing? no fair!" When we meet people who initially intimidate us.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Often times in life I think we find ourselves comparing everything we do to someone else. So and so keeps their house cleaner, so and so bakes their desserts better, so and so is more artistic than me, so and so writes better, so and so works out more and is thinner, so and so has the perfect family ... I think you get my point.

Why can't we just learn to celebrate the talents of others and remember that there is a reason we are created with different interests and different strengths?

Unfortunately, this is a lesson I, too, am struggling to learn each and every day.

I think it helps when we first figure out our own talents and then work on developing those. When we get comfortable with who we are and what God has blessed us with, it seems we tend to not be so put off by the strengths of others.

Excellent post! Unless you had pointed out how Cezanne used two different angles to paint the table, I probably never would have noticed. Oops.

mindyluwho said...

When I first read your Jell-o post I looked at it from the same angle you did. It wasn't until I read some of the comments that I realized there was another angle. I'm kind of dense that way and miss a lot of things until they are pointed out to me! I appreciated that you wrote this post and were able to admit to a mistake and apologize. That is even harder to do! And I'm going to have to study that picture a bit more because I am having a hard time seeing the other angle!

Kelly said...

What a classy post. You made me smile, laugh and nod my head in agreement. At times, I did all three at once.

And may I add -- I relate to your comment about going for the humor at the expense of the more balanced. As Charles Schultz said, "Happiness isn't funny."

It's just so hard to leave it alone, isn't it?

Clovergirl said...

Great post :-)
I love your blog!

TARA said...

Wouldn't you know it? I've been regretting my reaction to the Jell-o post! Of course you were more kidding than serious... And what I had decided was not to comment when I'm too tired.

I love that even with this post you weaved in a piece of art that once again teaches us and makes us think.

Jennifer B. said...

Good post. I love how you tied in Cezanne's piece.

(I thought they were two small tables pushed together. What would THAT mean?)

mindyluwho said...

p.s. I meant to comment on the quilt. From someone who quilts, I can appreciate all the time that went into it! It's beautiful.

Goslyn said...

Oh, I think the Jello post was a good post, and it would be a shame if you deleted it. One of the beauties of posting while grumpy is the humor and humanness of the posts. I can totally identify with your emotions re: the Jello salad, but I wanted to let you know that on occasion, your blog has inspired the same emotions in me :)

Also, sorry to hear you deleted the poorly-written student papers post. It was hilarious.

PS - that I Spy quilt is remarkable.

Luisa Perkins said...

Okay, now I'm feeling all guilty for enjoying the Jell-O (registered trademark) brand gelatin.

It wasn't mean! I think most of us understood the dueling admiration and despair very well.

Dedee said...

Wow. Comparison. I've been through my own batch of wanting to hate someone because they are seemingly perfect this week. I'm totally envious of other people this week. Thanks for reminding me that I am good at things too and that I need to learn, not complain.

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

I didn't take your previous post as mean spirited - just thought maybe you didn't understand the joy that comes in preparing something so beautiful and tasty and having someone fall in love with it. I really wouldn't be so hard on yourself. But all in all, good rules.

Kimberly said...

I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree with you hugely on this one, Julie. I mean, if you didn't put feelings like that into words every now and again, you'd come across as far too angelic.

And then? I might not like you very much.

And yeah, I'll probably regret this comment later. =P

Shalee said...

Well, you obviously are way smarter than me because I've just learned some good stuff from you...

Love the insight on this post, Julie.

allysha said...

Julie, you are a good person. I like you a lot.

lisa said...

I read the first post when you wrote it, didn't comment, but thoroughly enjoyed it. I appreciate the laugh it gave me and the honesty of it. Who hasn't been there? I "can" make the 15 layer salad and choose not to on most occasions. I "can't" write like you....ANY day! :-)

I agree with goslyn, luisa and kimberly.

I took it totally tongue in cheek, it was funny and should be left like it is. It is YOUR blog though, but I feel if you can't write how you are feeling and have to worry about feelings being hurt over a Jello-O salad then it kind of takes the fun out of having a blog. I realize we have personal responsibility and can't just rant & rave about anything and everything, but please....

(I didn't stop to think before I posted this....can you tell? :-)

Have a great day!

marinamo said...

add to the long list of what Julie does really well: