When a Renaissance man needs a Renaissance…
Rhyter Reedsit hunched forward on the pew of the chapel, the settled odors of dust and stale books swooshing into his nostrils as he breathed in to sigh. The silent statue of the crucified Christ resting in a recess on the wall ahead of him stared out and over Rhyter’s head, a twisted face of agony and loneliness. With the automatic door closed, the sounds of the hospital surrounding this sanctuary were muffled, the intercom announcing codes while busy nurses chittered along the hall. While he waited for his own operation, Rhyter sat with his cheeks in hands, elbows supported by his knees, but the statue refused to take its gaze from the thorns, from the heavens, to just see him.
”Shall you wait until He offers you a beverage?”
Rhyter turned, startled, his elbows dropping from his knees. He turned to see an old man in the pew behind him, long, white hair and creaky joints. The accent was thick, probably a first-generation immigrant, and Rhyter wondered how long the old man had been watching him.
“I don’t know what I’m looking for,” Rhyter said. “Have you been here long?”
“Si, long enough,” the man replied. “In the time it’s taken you to find your answers, I could have painted The Last Supper four times.” He chuckled an old man laugh, then smiled.
“I understand they have Spiderman and Superman and Batman come to hospitals to raise kids’ spirits, but when did they start using fifteenth-century painters to do the same?”
“Yes, kids do need high spirits,” Da Vinci said, “but I am much more than a fifteenth-century painter, you see. I, too, am a sixteenth-century painter.” He chuckled at his joke, endearing and clever with what he didn’t say, and Rhyter’s cheeks turned crimson, the color of incinerated embarassment.
“Okay, I see,” the patient said. “You’re here because Jesus didn’t feel like hanging out? I must be more anxious about this surgery than I realized before. I’m just gonna lean into this delirium. So, sir, what could you possibly have to say to me?”
“My favorite piece of mine is Mona Lisa,” Da Vinci said, his eyes glazing over as his gaze moved up the statue and back down.
“Of course it is,” Rhyter said. “It’s literally the most famous piece of art humanity knows.”
“No,” Da Vinci said. “It’s my favorite because it consumed thirteen years of my life. And I never could translate for the viewer the simple details. Her face alone took me two years, and it’s much more simple than is within my abilities. The next time you see the blasted thing, look closely at the skin on her left breast, just above her garment. That’s the evidence of a faulty and weaker piece.”
“So, what? Did you just leave it, then? Isn’t that sloppy?”
“What do you presume to base this idea upon?”
“An unfinished work is messy,” Rhyter said. “It isn’t perfect. It isn’t done.”
“But the thing about art,” Da Vinci said, his eyes returning to look at Rhyter, “is that it was never intended for perfection. I don’t know where we lost our philosophies there, but a piece is never finished. I was hoping I could learn how to get those small details just right. Simultaneously, I find joy in the accomplishments of the light on the sleeves of her garment. Her hands molded better than I expected. There are perfections and flaws to every piece, and there always will be. We’re human, and we can do no more than humans do, including the abilitiy to perfect art. A piece is reflective of the true state of the human condition, not an accurate replication. Where’s the fun in copying life? No, I hold that the amusement in art, that which fulfills every desire and void offered up by the soul, shall remain imperfect and incomplete.”
“I don’t understand what this means for-“
“You are art,” Da Vinci whispered. “Learn the nature of art, and become that.”
Rhyter nodded his head, a subtle movement as he looked back to the stony Christ, a reflection of the most human condition He’d endured. Rhyter had always wondered why the Christians had chosen to capture this moment of their Saviour’s life, this moment of death. It had always seemed a little creepy to him, but now if Rhyter could see the beauty in Christ’s humanity, would he be able to see his own with an equal amount of love? Could he see himself as art?
He turned to ask Da Vinci about that, but-
“Good morning, Atlanta! The time is six-thirty, and it’s time to start this day!” from the alarm clock.
“Today is my day to start,” Rhyter said to the dark room. “Today, I am art.”