• July 21, 2012

A Balm Poured out on so Many Wounds

Anna Maria Mugnani

On June 28th the Argentinian Branch of Heart’s Home suc­cess­fully orga­nized their first Gala Dinner in Buenos Aires. This event, pre­ceded by a ten-day Art Exhibition, prompted Rev. Thierry de Roucy, Heart’s Home founder, to med­i­tate once more on the healing power of art­work. Here is the text in its integrity:

“Right before her depar­ture to the Westerbock Camp, Holland, Etty Hillseum gives to her friend, Marie Tuinzing, her jour­nals starting from Saturday, March 8, 1941 to Sunday October, 11, 1942 – Pages filled with authen­ticity and depth and which were pub­lished only 40 years later.

The first journal starts in some kind of con­fu­sion. She speaks about “her infinite feeling of lone­li­ness . . . uncer­tainty, anguish.” She has the feeling that “life is dread­fully dif­fi­cult.” She claims to be “very inhib­ited and lacking in self-con­fi­dence.” A year and a half later, this same journal ends in a blaze of glory with this sen­tence: “one would like to be a balm poured out on so many wounds.”

There are the unthink­able wounds of all those who are sent to the transit camps, in the Netherlands or else­where, before being sent to Auschwitz… But “little by little all the sur­face of the earth will be an immense camp, and nobody will be able to stay out­side of it.” (July 11, 1942) Maybe this is already the case for the whole world because wherever there is a man, there is a black spot, a place of end­less suf­fering.

What should we do about this? In fact, nobody knows…Thousands of loaves or roofs, thou­sands of vac­cines or NGOs would not be suf­fi­cient to put an end to so much des­ti­tu­tion… And there are pains that money, knowl­edge or health are unable to con­sole – namely lone­li­ness, anguish and lack of meaning. To over­come this sit­u­a­tion, we need to under­stand that “doing” will not be a solu­tion, and that our “doing” should be about “being,” as Etty under­stood it. And this is true because “being” is the Spirit; the Spirit is the heart; the heart is love.

Each one of us has a heart – no heart, no life! – and thus the mis­sion to con­sole is a uni­versal mis­sion. One is an engi­neer to pro­gram, but also to “be a balm poured out on so many wounds…” One is a painter or a writer (as Etty wanted to become) to pro­duce works of art, but also to bring con­so­la­tion to the people with whom these works are shared. Thus one cannot buy a book or a painting the same way one buys toma­toes or tools. Buying a work of art is the fruit of a gaze, a com­plicity, a pas­sion. One chooses with emo­tion the work of art which will live with us; one chooses it as one chooses a friend. Choosing a work of art con­sists also in choosing the artist’s suf­fer­ings, mis­chievous­ness, lunacy and loves. And with the artist’s work, one chooses to wel­come the people con­tained in the work. It is a people that suf­fers, loves or works. It is a people walking in the dark­ness as in one of Kieffer’s under­grounds or cov­ered with wounds like in one of Celan’s poems.

The work of art brings me con­so­la­tion. When I am sad, I listen to some con­certi in order to regain strength. When I despair, I look at the warm painting in my office to remind myself that I am not alone. And when I don’t have any­body at my side or when the men’s words like those of Job’s friends, increase my pain, I need these silent pres­ences to remind me that my soul is nei­ther iso­lated nor thrown into hell . . . even more to remind me that I am immensely loved.

And occa­sion­ally I invite into my house a poor widow, sad paint­ings to con­sole them, vio­lent music to try to make them smile, poems filled with death to resus­ci­tate them. Some evenings my house is so full of these widows, these pris­oners, these mad people that there is no more room for any­body other than God.

Friendship is an exchange… The work of art is a balm on our wounds and we are a balm on the work of art’s wounds. This is the glo­rious and mutual task of man and art.”

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