Curious, Georges

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“Anyone can revolt. It is more difficult silently to obey our own inner promptings, and to spend our lives finding sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperament and our gifts.”

Georges Rouault, a French Expressionist painter from the nineteenth century wrote down these words. Or spoke them. Or spoke them and then thought he should write them down, lest they become lost forever. Bottom line, this meaning-full and beauty-full thread of words made it all the way from his mouth to a piece of green construction paper next to the door of my art classroom, hand-written in Sharpie. It has hung there, heavy with truth, for almrouault_karsarvina_oil_205_x_14ost three years now. I am, on many occasions, asked by the young people who cross that threshold each day to define words like “revolt” and “promptings” and “temperament.”  Once I explain what is being communicated by Mr. Rouault, most children stand with half-blank stares, but some kids get it. They get it and they like it. There is a quiet challenge that hides within his words, and we do love a challenge, don’t we?

But I thought it’d be neat to hear what you all think it means. Maybe I will gain new insight and wisdom to share with the young artists who are in my care.  What significance does this statement have for us as creative and faith-alive humans? Anyone? Bueller, Bueller…Let the dissecting begin.


14 Comments

  1. kevin

    I’ll take a whack at it.

    The revolution is easier to see than the “sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperament and our gifts.”, The second part demands some things revolting doesn’t: wisdom, balance, self-control, self-awareness, quietness, stillness, confidence and good ole’ fashioned common sense.

    Revolting is animalistic and reactionary, “sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperament and our gifts” divine-ish…

    The second part is becoming of the child of God, because in Christ we find ultimate acceptance, love, forgiveness, it then frees from reactionary lives. We can work quietly with our hands, esteem others as better than ourselves, obey Nero, etc. We are freed from the shackles of revolt, and catapulted into producing real beauty- because we’ve seen and tasted ultimate beauty.

    Plus, there’s always something to rage about, and it’s rarely pretty when we do.

  2. evie

    That’s it! We have a winner. Kevin’s got the golden ticket. Others need not apply. I kid, I kid.

    Thanks for this eloquent and spot-on interpretation. I especially like this part: “We can work quietly with our hands, esteem others as better than ourselves, obey Nero, etc. We are freed from the shackles of revolt, and catapulted into producing real beauty- because we’ve seen and tasted ultimate beauty.”

    Georges would be proud.

  3. kevin

    Good post.

    The systemic nature of the New Birth is a recent revelation to me, maybe to a lot of folks. Growing up in a fundy vein, I didn’t get this kind of info, so I feel like the Dorothy when black and white suddenly bursts into technicolor. Kind of unnerving, yet exciting.

    Christianity is a wild ride…

  4. paulh

    “It is easier to revolt…”
    We have tried revolutions, protests, and anti this or that. I am afraid they do make a statement but it is a dead-end in a way. If you convince and remove the thing you are revolting – great! Woo Hoo!.. now what?

    “…spend our lives finding sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperament and our gifts.”
    More effectively, infuse your world and surroundings with your God-given talent, which will not only, make your point, but at the same time be more proactive in your purpose here on earth.

    “It is more difficult silently to obey our own inner promptings”
    However, this approach is the road less traveled.

    Did Christ give the disciples placards and have them walk in a circle in front of the Roman throne? no he spent his life in a “sincere and fitting means of expression” and taught them (and us) to do so as well.

  5. Aaron Roughton

    Evie, thanks for this quote. Great comments as well. When I read the quote I immediately thought of a print by a visual artist and actor named Barak Hardley. Here’s a link:

    http://www.weareloved.net/Barak_Art/Pages/Prints.html#11

    I won’t say anything else about it because I think it speaks for itself. But do peruse his site http://www.weareloved.net. And if you’re really bored, he’s in process of drawing hilarious pictures of all of the US presidents at his other less reverent site http://www.50yearplan.com. (I say less reverent to warn you that some might find the language used there occasionally objectionable.)

  6. becky

    This is so challenging. Before I can find “sincere and fitting means of expression” I have to understand my own temperament and gifts. In order to silently obey my inner promptings, I have to hear them and trust them. These are not easy tasks for many of us.

    I also think there is a time for revolt. Some of my inner promptings, like the moneychangers’ tables in the temple, need to be overthrown. Sometimes revolution can be the only path for those who are loyal to the King.

  7. Tony Heringer

    Evie…how fun! Thanks for the quote and the challenge. Here’s my cut…

    “Anyone can revolt” as it is part of our nature. We are all in some way revolting in every sense of that word. Since Adam and Eve we’ve been in a very messy revolution which will only end with Jesus’ returns.

    However, to exhibit the self-control Rouault speaks of requires the meekness taught and exhibited by Jesus. Meekness is strength under control. It is not sappy or sentimental it truly loves and sometimes that love is fierce but in all instances it is purposed. Jesus exhibited that type of love perfectly and we are now His imitators. Some folks do a better Jesus than others but all of His followers, in some way, are playing Jesus for the folks around them in word and deed.

  8. whipple

    In attempt to look on this with fresh eyes, I’m going to try and answer before reading anyone else’s answers. Hopefully, I won’t repeat you dear folks (or, perhaps more hopefully, I will).

    I feel like I have a handful of different inner promptings. One is the fleshly anarchist who enjoys a good revolt merely for the sake of fiddling while Rome burns, just to prove that Rome was flammable. He’s usually the one of the most boisterous devils sitting on my shoulder. He loves to mock rich people and institutions and capitalism and anything else that’s an easy target for someone born in his caste.

    The next guy is me. The re-born me. The one-of-many-things-made-new me. He’s a bit of a walking disaster, but God did give him his peculiar temperament. Sometimes he is supposed to revolt (but I have a hunch that it’s not near as often as Person No. 1 would want to believe). More often than not, he is called to wrestle – with questions, with himself, with the Lord at the Ford of Jabbok. I’d like to say that it’s a conflict that leaves me ever broken and leads me to quiet contemplation and radical ascetism, but most of the time it’s an unseen inner war.

    The last guy, the Judge and the Advocate in this inner court that is me, is the Holy Spirit. As much as I fabricate his callings and his plans from my own ideas of what would be Godly and Beautiful, his winsome smile usually calls me to cast my bread upon the waters, with no clue of when or if I’ll see it again. He was there when I was imagined and the dusty song of my human flesh was sung. He is there every morning when I try and fail to become a tabernacle, and he’s there when I come to the end of myself and he makes me a tabernacle. In the end, I have to trust that he made me to do something with me and through me.

    Andy Osenga wrote a song that comes to mind:

    The grass is always greener when there’s carnage in your lawn.
    Now I’m tending to the man I am after wishing I was not,
    for so long.
    Andy, I’m coming home.

  9. abigail

    as humans, we are incredibly good at comparison .. better than, worse than. seeking to measure up to some ideal or trying to being like someone we respect. but as Christ-followers, we are challenged in a different way. God is not about comparison. we are all sinners. we are all in need of grace. we are exhorted to become more like Jesus, not simply imitations of each other.

    from the level ground at the foot of the cross, we are given the joy and challenge of living out the truth of the Gospel. living as those who are loved unconditionally. a big part of that is learning to be ourselves. the process of learning to be more authentically ourselves, to reflect God in the unique way that we were created to do so is in itself revolutionary.

  10. Chris Slaten

    Don’t have time to read all the interpretations yet, but I just wanted to say that I am posting that in my classroom now too.
    I’ll read the rest soon.
    Thanks!

  11. Greg

    I’m new to this site and have been digging it!
    I’m a huge fan of Rouault and I think the above quote illustrates his quiet submission and real authenticity in his walk of faith. He was very meticulous to not abuse subjects or plastics for his own means or as mere devices, but wanted to illuminate the real beauties that his subjects and paint had within themselves, and how they point to The Real Beauty that is found in Christ. That can only be done taking a long time to find “sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperament and our gifts.”

  12. David

    Thank you Evie, for posting it. Like one of your children, I too sometimes “get it”, at which time my mental mouth drops and stays open.

    My brother Kevin, your comment was beautiful but I do not see that it is completely matched to objective reality.

    The “fundy” sterotype evokes images of screaming and pounding away on a pulpit at all the “sinners” out there without recognizing the positive elements. I, too come from a similar tradition, but would submit that most responses in life are reactionary, responding to stimuli. Hence, theses posts. That doesn’t make them bad. My goal is to understand what does.

    For instance, on a macro level, our American Revolution was persistent, considered, courageous, and led by men and women who understood their rights and the grace of the Almighty. Struggling for years to fight for the rights of something God-given was not animalistic. “No King but Jesus!” was a pretty good thought. On the other hand, the French Revolution was much more what you described. “No king, no Jesus” led to man-centered horrors. So much for the Enlightenment.

    On a micro level, it appears to me that it depends on where one’s heart is and the motivation for the “revolt” or response. When I get angry because it affects ME, hurts MY feelings, wounds MY pride, then it is less than divine, less than what God created Man to be, and therefore, yes, animalistic.

    When it is a response to injustice and evil trampling the weak, we are called to battle behind His banner. God can fight His own battles and certainly does not need me, but He calls me into battles just the same. To that extent, I

    The difference lies in the answer to the questions — whose banner do we really follow and why? May it not be my banner.

    One last thought that your Wizard of Oz analogy raised. Something similar in my own experience. I know just how you feel.

    Coming from a southern fundamentalistic background right out of the 1960’s and early 70’s, I had a certain mind-set and frame of reference that emphazized this or that formula. It wasn’t all bad, it was just not balanced or complete.

    Over the course of time, I was enabled to put the pieces of the Puzzle together. I can’t say that I have them ALL put together, but I saw “The Big Picture” — the point of all THIS (look around you).

    When that happened to the puzzle I had been putting together for 40+ years, the picture of the Puzzle not only became 3-dimensional, it began to move, to become ALIVE! In fact, that’s when I really became a part of it Big Picture. Or it became part of me. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I AM living in a constant awe, open-mouthed, at the whole thing.

    Blessings.

  13. kevin

    David- This is why we’re not all me. Good tempering in your comment, and I would agree with you entirely. My comment was too general, and yours expanded it quite a bit. Thank you.

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