No grumbling today, because it is the Eastern Orthodox Christmas.
Merry Christmas to everyone that celebrates it according to the Julian calendar, the one that preceded the Gregorian one which is now in common use. Because there is nothing common, or plain, or frugal, about the Eastern Orthodox Christmas.
This morning I was taken by this painting, called “Giotto with shrimp” (2001), by the Serbian artist Maja Milovanović:
One looks at this edible Mother of God, and ponders: on a diet this year? Does God view eating shrimp as abomination? Does Apostolic Church celebrate the consumption of Christ on a golden nimbus plate and if so, should the plate be Meissen or Royal Albert? Should we think of William Wilberforce, of Milner’s conversations of wealth’s emptiness, of the Loach’s “criminal poor”, of the rise of the Soul, of radical demands of faith or of kawaii colours of LSDs, amphetamines and Myanmar’s sorbet heroin? You tell me. All up for grabs.
The painting’s cheekiness reveals nothing.
The gaze immediately recognises the crop of a glossy supplement magazine (the work belongs to a ‘Magazine’ series, I find out). Open any glossy and the instructions are cooed at you in syrupy tones: how to be a sexy lover, a creative party hostess, an excellent co-worker, but also, in the current day Serbia, how to be a good woman of faith. How to be… a good woman… of faith?
In most strands of Christianity eating shrimp is on par with homosexuality; but does the presence of Giotto, the holy Saint of painting’s geometric perspective, sanctify even shrimp? Both Giotto and shrimp seem removed from any focus or perspective in this Eastern delight. Like rose-scented lokums, they’re tiled into little squares of pleasure and duty, only it’s difficult to know which is which.
Meanwhile, the little boats of pink await to be dipped deliciously into mayonnaise.
Did you know that heroin is sold in refined lemon yellow and cotton-candy pink, like sweeties and spices, in Myanmar, Burma? Allegedly, the sweetie smack doesn’t bring any euphoria, just numbness; however the profit of the trade was largely behind Myanmar’s economic boom of the last several years. It is now a buzzing metropolis of wealth that welcomes you with small and fragrant, tastefully arranged dishes of thin rice noodles, light hin gyo broth, some fresh vegetables, a sprinkle of sesame on that… should we go on a diet this year?
Have you noticed how the dieting regime comes in pastels, too? The dumbbells are satsuma, cerise, mango or lilac. Yoga mats are cucumber, turquoise, ginger. Tape measures for your waist and biceps are sour lemon yellow. Drinking bottles are the Holy Grails of gleaming gold. Combine that with some racy jogging gear. Mint candy apple nail varnish. Pastel goth or mermaid hair dye. Dolly on the outside, dolly on the inside. Eat sugar, be sugar, purge sugar. Edible self, edible sacrifice, edible faith. Be good. Find yourself.
Find yourself in faith.
But don’t be poor.
Criminalising addiction and indulgence was always the job of the Church. But the Church hardly ever criminalised the poor. Today, everyone who is not a sun-kissed blonde, who is not a pastel-spoken mermaid in a convertible artichoke wearing a golden band on the wedding finger, everyone who is poor is a suspect. Poverty is
a criminal weakness. Poverty is so un-American.
Don’t be un-American. Be a good Eastern Orthodoxian. Be both.
But also find yourself.
And don’t hold a grudge. Turn the other cheek.
Pop this candy.
Glaze a bun.
Turn the cheek.