Although this appears to be a little off-topic, it is not, by any means. I use the above title, a little tongue-in-cheek. And it has merit. A couple of nights ago, Mom and I went to a lecture by Philippe de Montebello, the former 30-yr Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. An absolutely delightful evening.
At the Q & A session afterward, someone posed the question, “What is your opinion regarding returning ancient works of art to its historical country?” His answer–as most of the rest of his talk–was deep. And caused me to think. And this does go to World Peace, if you track with me just a little bit:
He said, in many cases, how exactly can you determine the country of history? Not that you don’t know where it was made; but really, where is the history? For one example, he talked about a famous piece in Italy. And the Italians are very protective of it. Except that it was brought to Italy centuries earlier, having been removed (if I remember correctly) from its original country during the Crusades.
In another example, a like piece now resides in London’s Museum of Art, also having come from some other area of the world centuries earlier. So where does it belong, is the postulate? Although created elsewhere, London found this piece many years ago, in the process of being systematically destroyed by tourists taking piece after piece off of it. And preserved it. And this is the point: Where is the history? It’s all history. Created here; almost lost there. Transported who knows where in between. Yet, each event had a hand in it’s history.
Around the mid-1980’s there was a devastating fire in Yellowstone National Park, destroying a significant number of the trees throughout. A roommate had planned a trip across country to see the park, and had mused how unfortunate the chosen timing to see the park this way. I thought for a second and responded, “On the contrary. This is actually one of the rarest times to see the park: Forests have cycles of growth, and then fire, to clear away all the years of dead growth on the forest floor. All part of the natural cycle. And, this was actually an opportunity to see a part of that cycle that wouldn’t be seen for another hundred years. An opportunity of a lifetime.”
To return to the Philippe de Montebello story, his words made me think as I drove home, relative to our current social/political situation. I personally believe–and often dwell on–the reality that we’re in some very dark times socially. Although I am a bit of a political animal, I’ll try and keep it out of this blog, at least on this post. But I believe that the times we’re in will get significantly darker yet—as a storm that’s only beginning to form. But this one is well past the horizon: People of political viewpoint are almost at blows with whomever represents another belief. Destructive and uncivil stuff. There is no reasoning any longer with a disparate viewpoint: Simply express yours, and get bludgeoned. This is wrong, and there will be no—world peace—if we continue to move apart and not together in discussion. And if not, the end of this gets dark, indeed.
And all of this, for some time, has troubled me deeply. Until I contemplated Montebello’s words. This is history. If you believe Scripture, this will get much darker. But this is that rare period that must be passed through—the burning off of the trees.
No one likes to see the blaze. And no one even likes to see the aftermath. But whether this artwork (or political problem) was created here or there, really is insignificant. It’s what happens to it along the way. It’s what will be recorded in history.