The last gift

Fire they had already in abundance.  They had no need to steal it, nor to commission its theft for pity.  What heaven’s burglar gained them was the hearth, and later metal casings to make the fire work.

After fire, though, came the gifts, freely given.  They unwrapped these in awe, each miracle more wondrous than the last.

The waves were tamed, accepting the actual oceans were unruly.  The sails were filled, though of course they could not direct the wind.  The baby’s head was guided.  Skins could be made more durable with piss and fibres woven into cloths.  Water was directed and fields sown with bland food so rock could be hewn and cities built.

Sisterhood they had had for ever, but brotherhood through shared ideas was new: yes, empire and slavery were among the gifts, and the capture and exchange and use of women too.

Some gifts showed great workmanship and had been long in the making.  From the very first, encapsulated life defended its integrity by capturing, cutting, splicing and inserting invading parasitic genes.  This was the gift, that they might use life’s defences as a tool to change the sequences encoding their own nature.

When the basket seemed empty, they carried on looking, turning it over, shaking it and feeling at the seams.  They knew the story, of course, and were looking for hope.   They wanted a myth they might believe in, so they might act positively, winning against the odds.

They found something almost as good.  The last gift of all was wishful thinking, that this might all go well.

10 responses to “The last gift

  1. Wishful thinking… I’ve got plenty of that.
    I thought that your drawings were a gradual deconstruction of the first (top) drawing, but then noticed that you had added colour to the bottom one which didnt continue through to the top – or was that the wishful thinking evaporating during the task?

    • Yes you are spot on. The top was the start and I gradually deconstructed it and lastly splashed colour on. These are digital images. I drew these some months ago.
      I’ve been thinking on the subject of hope for some time. Professionally, I have to discuss the probability and imminence of death several times a week. One person I know contrasts speaking truth with giving hope. To me they are part of the same task. The concept of hope in culture was discussed on the radio 4 program In Our Time led by Melvyn Bragg recently. That gave some grounding to my retelling of the myth. I have also been thinking, as we all have perhaps, about Brexit and Trump and climate change, and what ordinary people can do and why we don’t. I was at a scientific meeting last week which got me thinking about the immense power of a tool like CRISPR gene editing for good and bad.
      So I mapped those thoughts onto the series of deconstructed images. The colour in the last panel does not feel hopeful to me. That’s the point.
      It worked for me.

  2. These drawings have a feeling of movement… movement from left to right… a kind of rhythm too… comparable in some respects to “the shape of” handwritten text… but also very different from same…

  3. I thought that you had done it the old fashioned way in marker pen/ink – so I couldn’t relate the first image to the last in terms of production.
    I’m not sure that the blunt truth is always what people want as otherwise we wouldnt see the crutches of religion, opiates and football lying about – though I do agree that unvarnished facts should be the preferred option – but the wise do operate with discretion .
    As for Brexit and Trump – that’s democracy. I think both were brought about by the lack of hope and a feeling of disenfranchisement. The US is going through what this country has done for my entire lifetime and they dont like it and in the rustbelt it hurts.
    We have an unelected chamber which is a remnant of a long past, but the EU has one and doesnt have the same excuse. The arrogance that precipitated brexit is still there and I fear the lessons will not be learnt. The French had a similar vote some time ago and theirs was similar to ours, but the result was brushed under the carpet. We dont yet have the maturity to look and react honestly to the issues – if we did we might not be in this mess.
    I’m thinking New Zealand might be a better option – so long as I stay off the roads.

    • Yes – I have tended to see digital art as a poor cousin of proper drawing. However, I’ve begun to see that drawing with my fingers with simple tools of the iPad screen is very freeing.

      Blunt truth? I can see all your points, but my experience has been that when I ask how much people want to know, most people want to know as much as possible, good and bad. Later in the journey, whether things turn out well or not, straight talking and the trust it engenders seems to continue to be appreciated. The journey for each person is fraught with uncertainty and knowledge seems to give people strength. I use the concepts of probability a lot and find people get this (more so than many doctors) . I learned long ago that false hope is an unkind gift. I also note that very religious people seem to cope least well with mortality and uncertainty.

      As for Brexit, my thoughts are similar to yours. I voted remain and would do so again, but that’s not to say I like the EU. I do not lightly dismiss the thoughts of those who voted out. Our strength is in our alliances. Still, we need a strong and intelligently left wing government to challenge the EU from inside. As you rightly say, we would not be alone in this.

      • Certainly digital painting does open up possibilities, as you did with your piece – had me puzzled, but as Bacon said – it’s the role of the artist to confuse – so success there. And I don’t think it is the poor cousin – Hockney’s been using them for years.
        Probably it is the size that is restricting – over the years my support has got bigger and bigger, but then you could use it as a small sketchbook, something I still use – and Hockney works bigger then me ( explains the prices).
        Also there is the ambiguity it throws onto the artwork – very confusing to someone who produces paintings – so uniqueness is unquestioned. Not the same with digital art.
        As for your other thoughts – I wont comment- I want to enjoy Christmas in a reasonable frame of mind and then I will be out of the country for a good few weeks.
        Merry Christmas

      • Merry Xmas also
        By all means sometime carry on the rest of the discussion but don’t let anything I say wind you up. Seemed to me I mostly agreed with you. I’m trying to understand the nonsense going on but I don’t claim right on my side, for sure!

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