Today is Ash Wednesday, a traditional moment in the Christian calendar when everyone considers his or her sins and makes a commitment of self-examination for a time before the celebration of Easter.
During this time of self-examination, called Lent, Christians make a conscious commitment to prune back those behaviors and actions that have hurt ourselves and others, either by refraining from them, or actively correcting them.
Many people also fast from certain very enjoyable foods or drink. Among the most popular is meat, chocolate, and alcohol. (Watermelon is also popular among the less serious among us.)
I submit that we are at our own national Ash Wednesday.
Many or most of us are having to fast from things we have enjoyed, whether it be shopping, restaurant meals, or travel.
We also must, collectively and individually, take a look at those things we can do to better our finances and help others, too.
In addition to our cutting back, however, we might also want to refrain from
- excessive fear
- too little spending
Though no one's job is perfectly safe, if we all decide we must have 2 years' of savings in the bank before we spend again, eventually no one will have a job except the security guard at the bank.
Last weekend I and a companion went out to a folk art show. Usually, said my companion, the show is so crowded you can't turn around. This year it was crowded, but the artists were not too busy to talk.
I always feel a quiet, positive vibe around artists, which is probably why I am irresistibly attracted to female artists. These pieces, too, were mostly gentle and whimsical. There was a fair amount of tourist art-- that is, stuff the artists knew would sell, and made a lot of.
But there was the occasional piece that was one of a kind, and this is what I bought.
The medium is antique journal paper. There is handwriting on the journal, clearly notes from a nineteenth- or early-twentieth century American history class. There is a list of southern Indian tribes, including the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws.
On this medium the author has created his own copy of an ancient Middle Eastern winged thunder god, either Sumerian or Babylonian or Assyrian, something of that nature. The drawing is in pen and ink, with wonderful cross-hatching and color.
I asked the artist, Gabriel Shaffer, what he was thinking about when he created it. He didn't have much of an answer, though he said that his grandmother was full-blood Cherokee, which might have motivated him to use that particular journal page for the piece.
I loved this, though I haven't fully figured out what I want it to mean.
The point is that I didn't really have the money to spare to buy this piece. But I did anyway. Because we all need to make money. We all need to encourage each other. We don't need to buy a 12-bedroom house for $3.5 million at 17.9% interest with no money down. But art-- now there's something that helps everyone.