Ivan Kramskoi was a painter from the Realist and Humanist school. I'm struck by his portraiture, especially of Tolstoy but something else caught my mind here - not particularly my eye. It was the irony of some twisted humor that I heard for the first time this weekend.
I was talking to an old friend who made an extraordinarily funny riff off the idea that God, in order to get back love from humanity after generations of smiting and literally drowning the planet, offered to kill his son. The stark irony of the the way it was presented among a crowd of black Catholics, was devastatingly funny. "Dad, really do I have to?" "It'll make you famous! Here, just take this pill."
This is not a garden of Gethsemane, it is the pitiless desert of God's calculation, and the hour is growing late.There are several peoples of the world I love by reputation and the briefest of introductions. I always found something to admire about the Chinese but I could never love them. I find them rather unlovable. It's complicated why, but primarily because I perceive that they don't love themselves - not at least with any romance in their suffering. The Russians, I love ineffably. Yet I find them about an inch more trustworthy than Nigerians, and while I'm casting aspersions let me not forget the Indians. Whom I neither admire nor greatly respect, but like very much. I've only met a few noble Indians and I remember them well. But I've met too many others and have started to treat them like they treat each other, with a ruthless disdain for anyone marginally inferior. The Russians have suffered. The Russians have soul. The Russians are subversively crafty soulmates to the Negro, drunken sophisticated sellouts all. The Brazilians? Don't know enough. I've only known one. Why do they not come here? Good question.
But here is the Russian painter with a Christian subject, done up in the time before the czars fell. And there is that suffering, that anguish over a fate beyond control - a fate with only the briefest hint of a real choice, one that is dubiously ennobling and likely to turn out painfully. The Christlike Russian. The Russian Christ. There in that heavy brow is the weight of God's autonomy.
And where is his dram?