Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - November 24

Sitting for a Portrait

Lovely, cold, lonely afternoon, winter afternoon, rich winter silence and loneliness and fullness into which I entered nearly twenty years ago! These afternoons contain all the inexplicable meaning of my vocation.

Victor Hammer came over. Brought the beginning of the woodcut for Hagia Sophia and some proofs of his new thing on Mnemosyne, which is excellent. (I finally apprehend the simple thing that Fiedler is getting at: that the work of art is to be seen--not imagined, worked over intellectually by the viewer. Central is the experience of seeing.)

Victor worked on a sketch for a portrait of me, and this (contrary to what one might say according prejudice) makes at least some sense. The patient, human work of sitting and talking and being understood on paper. How different from the camera! I am incurably camera shy! The awful instantaneous snapshot of pose, of falsity, eternalized. Like the pessimistic, anguished view of judgment that so many mad Christians have--the cruel candid shot of you when you have just done something transient but hateful. As if this could be truth. Judgment really a patient, organic, long-suffering understanding of the man's whole life, of everything in it, all in context.

November 17, 1961, IV.179

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