John Brown Mad

The moment I saw Ole Peter Hansen Balling's portrait of John Brown, I walked out of the National Portrait Gallery. It was his eyes, his hair. It is not often you associate blue and white with fire, unless you are discussing stars. But standing in front of his image, you run the risk of succumbing to his madness. I don't know if that kind of subscribed insanity abates. Is it easier to walk away from a voluntary descent? Is it a contract or a contraction?

He was clean shaven and dark haired in 1856, and three years later he was marbled obelisk and glacial azure. Three years. Because his was a morally defensible cause, you wonder if the transformation was metamorphosis or demise. We sin in spite of love and love in spite of sin. I don't know ultimately which vision is right. I know there is enough crazy, cross-eyed blue to keep the artists busy.

It probably would have been best to skip the Holocaust museum. There were crowds of tired tourists in the lobby, laughing and smiling. I thought it was a hopeful sign.

Jake and I had a beer or two. It has been 7 years, I think, since the first? I am not quite transfigured into my ultimate Moses like state, so does that mean I have been unburdened by the ravages of jihad? Maybe I just cut back on gluten and nicotine. At this rate, I may never be compelling enough to sit for my portrait.

I dipped deep into my store of literary quotes about fear this week, to good effect. For the most part, I saw where I was walking. The Friday 1 am subway crowd is hands on affectionate. They ought to hold onto that.


Janet said…
beware, beware his flashing eyes and floating hair.

(For some reason Coleridge usurped.)
Mostly from memory, but with some Google-based help:

When a resolute fellow steps up to a bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is surprised to find that it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid.

It's Ralph Waldo Emerson (I call him Waldo) at his most eloquent. I've kept that one with me for quite awhile now.

Speaking of beards, how long have you been Moses?
brando said…
sir, people better not grab my beard unless they want soup on their hands.

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