Monday, 26 October 2020

God's Study. A glimpse, through a painting, into where God does all his admin. No religions needed, just a sense of humour.

This week, we are doing art.  

During the last few months, I have been busy. Not with things that further my career and catapult me into stardom, but with pottering about rearranging my house, painting my garden furniture blue, cooking, sitting on the sofa and dreaming of shortbread, making lists and trying to remember what I used to do. I found motivation difficult, there does not seem to be much point in painting.  Oh, what the heck, I say.  Can't be bothered.

What's it all for? I ask myself.  There is no exhibition possible and no one will know if I paint a master piece or not, and I don't have much inspiration, so I'll leave the studio till later, pour myself another cup of tea and find more FBI Files on YouTube to watch.

And then, I thought, I miss my studio.  It is so full of the sights and smells of oil paints, there are so many pieces of wood primed and ready to use, the heater works, I have a comfy chair and I love the organised disorder in there.  So I went and spent an afternoon chilling back in the studio, with the rain falling outside, a scented candle mixing with the smell of oil paints and turps, and I had a great time.  I found the series of God's Life paintings I had done for my dad, had a look, remembered how much fun they were to create, and decided to write about them today.  

A while ago I painted an idea I had had for a long time.  Called "God's Study", it showed the study where God works, the idea being that he pops out for ten minutes and we all get a quick glimpse of the room.  There is so much scope to make this really amusing, with God's in tray and out tray, reference books on the desk, bills, letters, articles and leaflets advertising courses and events he may like to attend.  This first God's Study sold quite quickly, and my father asked me to do him another but to add references to his own life to all the stuff on God's desk.  Fine, I said and this became the first in series of paintings of the rooms God uses but has just left for a moment or two.  We see what his rooms look like, and all the references to his life and times.  I ended up creating a God's Study, God's Bathroom, God's Garden, God's Kitchen and a God's Schoolroom.  The study, the kitchen and the schoolroom paintings have references to my dad's life, as the paintings were his idea, and for him to keep.  Between us, despite his dementia, we had so much fun creating these.  The God we refer to in the God's Life series is the Christian God of Dad's Anglican church; he was a very devout and religious man, with a quirky and wonderful sense of humour.  Today, we are going to look at the very first of these paintings.  

God's Study

God's Study, painted for my father.  First reference to his own life is the clock hands 
at five to eleven.  This refers to his television programme in the eighties called
Five To Eleven, where famous guests read wonderful poetry. 

God has just popped out for ten minutes, and we get a look at how he works.  There is much for him to sort out on his desk.  Painted in acrylic on canvas, I have used my own office in the studio as a template.  I will take you through the details in the painting - it will help to have some knowledge of the Christian Bible, a book that my father loved very much.  

I read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and began to use this grid here.  It seems that God uses it too, the idea being to remember not to just do the urgent important things, but to do non urgent important stuff too.  God has some notes here, about not panicking, and hoovering Heaven.  Below is the book of the week, a reference to my father's great love of Dad's Army, the iconic, heart warming and wonderfully hopeless comedy series made for television and first shown in 1968.  It tells of the adventures of a band of elderly and rather eccentric British men during the second world war, as they take their duties as the Home Guard very seriously.  The book of the week here is "We're Doomed, how Dad's Army captured the zeitgeist".  "We're Doomed!" was a catch phrase of one of the characters making up the Army, a pessimistic, fatalistic character called Fraser, an elderly, tall, lugubrious Scot. Captain Mainwaring, pronounced Mannering, was the pompous, loveable, infuriatingly humourless and well meaning leader of the Dad's Army. 

I have signed the painting with my name on an envelope on the desk.  Next to the envelope is a book called Absent Fathers, is it enough to be there in Spirit?  The son of God, Jesus, was born to an unmarried virgin called Mary. God sent an angel to tell Mary that this would happen, and that Mary would marry the man she was already betrothed to, called Joseph.  And so, pregnant via the Holy Spirit, not through the normal channels, carrying the actual Son of God, Mary - a virgin - gives birth to Jesus who is raised by Joseph, his step father.  His real father is God.  The book title here is a pun on this situation.  Maybe God feels a bit guilty for not being around physically, though of course, being God, he was always around in Spirit. 

There is a leaflet advertising a course for deities, who are said to not only be divine, but a manifestation of Light.  This course is a take on the kind of courses we humans offer, only it is for God and poses a bit of a conundrum.  The course is called "Follow the Light - what if you ARE the light? Courses on Divine Problems"  Under the advert is a letter from Mother Teresa, a newly canonised saint in the Catholic Church, and someone with whom Dad worked when she was alive and he was head of religious broadcasting at the BBC. 

In God's in tray are three lists of prayers to be answered.  They fall into the categories of  For Answering, For Smiting, and For Miracles.  And of course, in the picture above, God had his tea in a mug with Boss written on it.

God has gone through the prayer list for today, and those who he can answer with advice, or guidance, or a bit of good fortune will come under the Answering list.  

Those who are cheeky, or asking for bad things, won't get a nice answer, they will be smitten, which is a way to say they will get a smack from God.

The miracles are reserved for those who have requested something very special and are probably special themselves.  These lucky supplicants will have the best outcome of all.

Here, on a shelf under the computer keyboard, is a game that God may like to play when he has some down time.  Called Spot the Atheist, it is a family game to be played with his own family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and any of the legion of angels and seraphim and cherabim rushing about in Heaven.  The tag lines on the box - Is it me?  Is it you?  Him? Her? - give us an idea that it is no easy thing to spot an atheist.  God, being a deity, knows he exists.  An atheist does not believe in any religion or divine idea, and therefore is the absolute opposite of God. This may be a fun game for God to play, because from his point of view, the atheists will have a bit of a surprise when they die and find out there is something out there.  Maybe he will get the game out for them to play, and watch them laugh at the obvious wrongness of the very idea that there isn't a God, amused to be remembering their own foolishness.  

Oh I had fun with this bit.  Here is a newspaper God was reading, with big shock headlines.  Fifth horse joins the apocalypse, it says.  The final book of the New Testament in the Bible is called the Book of Revelations.  In it, the four horsemen of the apocalypse ride over the end of times as punishments from God.  Here, in this article, a fifth horse is added to ease the workload.  A rota system of four on one off will make the whole business of being a punishment from God more efficient and less tiring.

On the next page is another shock that the Lamb of God has grown up, and is now a sheep.  The sheep says, "Sorry."

Jesus, the son of God, was also known as the Lamb of God.  A sacrificial lamb had to be unblemished and pure, and so Jesus, being also unblemished and pure, took on the symbolic title of the Lamb of God, and without sin.  In this newspaper article, the lamb of God is a separate entity and has, unfortunately grown up and is now a sheep.  This could get confusing.

The Golden Smartie is a reference to a system my father set up when he was a teacher in Liverpool, before he joined the BBC, where he taught Latin and English to boys at an independent school.  Always eccentric and very academic, Dad was given boys that were considered difficult.  He devised a weekly reward system, where on a Friday, the boy who had done best for the week was given a golden smartie.  It became wildly popular and successful, and I believe there were silver and bronze smarties too.

Behind the golden smartie is a Father's Day card, simply saying Best Dad and showing two figures in Biblical robes and beards, and both with haloes around their heads.  In Christian art, the halo is a circle of light around someone's head, to signify that they are holy.  These two are God and Jesus, God obviously being the Best Dad for Father's Day.

The Ethical Angel Bureau advertises itself here. A small deposit secures an angel, so best get onto them now.  This is a pun on secretarial agencies of the past, where a small deposit would mean the agency would send someone either temporarily or permanently, to help with the office workload.  A definition of the word "ethics" is a philosophical discipline concerned with what it morally right and wrong, good and bad.  Angels, those divine beings that do only good and live in Heaven, would have to be ethical and so this bureau has used some clever marketing in their name.  

Below this is a receipt for God to pay, for £9.99 for the polishing of the Pearly Gates.  The Pearly Gates are at the entrance to Heaven. Now they are polished, and at a very good price too.  Perhaps an Ethical Angel did it.

Three reference files here.  Martyrs, Heretics and Nutters.  

Christian history is full of Martyrs - those who died horribly for their faith, Heretics who reject the doctrine of the church or faith of the time and Nutters, who are possibly mad and have strange beliefs.  

There will always be a huge number of martyrs, heretics and nutters, God will need some guidance on how to deal with them all.

Some more books to help with the business of being God.
Virgin Births - a practical approach.  I mentioned before that Mary the mother of Jesus was a virgin and yet became pregnant and had Jesus.  This is an article of faith, very strong in the Catholic faith.  The whole idea is very difficult to get our human heads around, so this book offers a practical approach to something that is not actually practical at all.  
Smiting and Plague - a thoughtful approach.  In the first book of the Bible, the Old Testament, God sometimes shows his displeasure by using severe punishments.  A word often used in the Old Testament is "smite", to hit hard with the hand or a stick or an object in the hand.  Plagues are sent by God too, to punish disobedient tribes and nations.  This is another paradox, in that God has a book on how to do this thoughtfully.  In the Old Testament, smiting and plagues were products of rage and anger, and not likely to be too thoughtful.  This is as unlikely as a Virgin Birth.
Resurrection - a hygienic approach is the final book here.  Jesus was executed by crucifixion, but had promised to come back in three days.  This he did, and it is called the Resurrection.  It is a hugely joyful and hopeful story that is celebrated by Christians on Easter Day.  The hygienic approach is necessary because having been executed and buried for three days, any coming back could be a bit smelly.  Obviously, Jesus wasn't smelly, God had read this book.

And finally, on the wall on God's study, is the Pope of the Moment award.  The Pope is the leader on earth of the Catholic church.  He lives in the Vatican in Rome and is responsible for all the Catholics wherever they are in the world.  Pius was a popular name for a pope, there were twelve over the centuries.  Pius sounds like the word Pious, which means devoutly following a religion. 

I did jury service with a lovely nun once, who denounced much of what the lawyers were saying as pious twaddle, meaning they were talking pretentious nonsense.  I was struck by how wonderful it would be to have a pope called Pious Twaddle, and she, being a humorous and wonderful old nun, agreed.  So, with huge apologies and respect to all Catholics, here he is and what is more, he is Pope of the Moment.

Another talk for God to go to, is the How Did I Get Here event.  God is said to be without beginning and without end, and so this could be a difficult question for him when awake in the early hours of the morning.  In this lecture, on Thursday at 8pm, he will get to explore Divine Consciousness - in other words, his own consciousness.  

Phew!  Thank you for getting this far.  God is due back into his study any minute now, so we will leave it there.  I had so much fun painting this, with my lovely old Dad.  He died in June, and all of the God's Life paintings have come back to my studio. If you are up for it, I will do God's Schoolroom next. See you in two weeks and I hope you either get an answer or a miracle for your prayers, and avoid the smiting. 

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