Sunday, March 20, 2011

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans

It's been said that if you've made up your mind you can do something, you're absolutely right; if you've made up your mind you cannot do something, you're absolutely right.  Decision making isn't always the easiest thing to do despite it being a daily occurrence and there are almost always moments where one decision's outcome will yield something bad or something worse.  Often referred to as "necessary evil," the chaos of one moment where one will have to choose to step forward in one direction or another will still have adverse affects on anyone or anything in the wake.  It comes down to which direction will produce the least amount of collateral damage lest one not have the wisdom to foresee such outcomes.

Faced with a career that was dwindling and a massive loss of self-confidence, in the following weeks after September 11, 2001 I had a decision to make:  I could stay where I was and not afford much of a living, or throw all caution to the wind and go to the military which to me was always a "professional" last-resort.  Of course, considering the circumstances and feeling patriotically offended, the decision did not seem as difficult to make as I now feel it should have been.  No matter, though, in mid-October of that year I shaved my own head and was put on a plane to Ft. Benning in Georgia for Infantry training.

After about four weeks of training, I injured my knee and became familiar with a side of me I'd always knew was there but had never experienced.  Despite the incredible pain the moment it happened, I pressed on determined to fight through it.  "Suck it up and drive on" was our company motto and that echoed in my head with each agonizing stride I made until I began to notice I was involuntarily crying.  A few weeks later after literally not receiving any proper medical attention, my will to continue was completely sapped and I went from being a model soldier looked up to by every man in our company to being the object of daily ridicule by each commanding officer and drill instructor.  A couple weeks after that I found myself being shipped home with nothing to show for my intentions; no job, no vehicle, and no place to live.

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) by Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) is a painting depicting a man struggling with himself over what was essentially considered frivolity.  Painted in 1936 to illustrate the essence of the Spanish Civil War, it shows a dismembered figure reaching up to keep himself from moving upward while using his foot to keep himself down.  Poignant--absolutely "poignant" comes to mind because despite this painting being created as a way of expressing an anti-war sentiment, it can stand for so much more for so many of us.

When I see the grimacing face, it reminds me of the inner angst I face with every difficult decision I have to make.  Caught up in ideology and narrow-minded thinking, however, I therefore separate myself from myself and thus the battle for dominance on an esoteric and emotional level begins.  Yet the painting also displays a box on which the figure is propped up implying either the need to be seen and heard or the need to move upward.  And at the bottom lies the "boiled beans" symbolizing that what may have started out as a noble or genuine decision to make, has been selfishly stupefied to the point of becoming meaningless.  The figure represents emotion on the surface but also foolishness on a much deeper level.  And though the heavens being bright and blue seem to imply moving upward will be the best choice compared to the bland, brown and dirty environment below, the man is so caught up in his internal struggle to make a decision that all of it has become forsaken.

What an incredible amount of irony is being displayed.  That a person can become so obsessed with making a difficult decision, he or she misses the point entirely and forgets that the now dismembered body of his or her self has to get to the same destination!  What you are witness to is a man who has become his own enemy, lost to his genuine ambition, and now battling within and clearly on the verge of utter failure.  Much like my own struggle in 2001 both in joining the Army and in what to do once fate had dealt her hand, I, too, had become my own enemy allowing circumstance and ignorance take control over half of who I was.

Fortunately, my sister and brother-in-law came to my rescue and offered me a new start on life out of the generosity of their immensely kind hearts.  That is how I see the small figure perched on the lower hand in the bottom left corner.  Though the subject of this piece is battling himself, insignificantly there and ready to become significantly more is someone who may be able to assist and being back order to what has become distinctively ugly.  I am thankful to this day that I have not had to be as juxtaposed to myself as I did nearly ten years ago.  I am equally thankful someone as talented as Dalí helps to keep me reminded of how far I have come.

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