Friday, May 7, 2010

Inner Light And My Home Town

Peaceable KingdomImage via Wikipedia
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 
   --Isaiah 11:6 
Newtown's original 5000 acres were part of the immense land parcel purchased by William Penn from the Lenni Lenape,  Indians in 1682.  William Penn  and  Lenape Chief Tamanend, representing three local tribes:  Lenape, Susquehannock and Shawnee,  made a Treaty of Friendship 1683 that Europeans and Indians would live together in peace as long as the creeks and rivers run and while the sun, moon, and stars endure.  This spirit was captured in Newtown painter, Edward Hicks's A Peaceable Kingdom, that included a vignette of William Penn's treaty with the Lenape Indians. 

The Lenape believed that they were kin to all creation. All life in Lenapehoking was possible only through the interaction between the Creator and manitous (spirit kin). Women worked in gardens with the Corn Mother and her sisters (beans and squash) to provide food for the people. When men hunted, they asked the Mesingw, or "Masked Keeper," to help them track down game. And when they killed an animal, they thanked their kinsman for its willing sacrifice to provide them with meat. So, just as the manitous and animal kinsmen shared with the people to provide them with life and sustenance, it was the duty of the Lenape to share with each other and guests.  

The main part of the painting was inspired by Isaiah's quote of the lamb laying down with the lion.    Hicks may have viewed parallels in the two parts of the composition, inasmuch as Penn, who had introduced Quakerism into Pennsylvania, had also brought about a measure of the peaceable kingdom. 
Hicks repesents the traditional four humors common to all mankind: the melancholy humor by the gloomy and avaricious wolf, the sanguine by the lustful and volatile leopard, the phlegmatic by the lumbering bear, the choleric by the proud lion. In the Peaceable Kingdom, these wild beasts would be spiritually reborn and would lay down with their domestic opposites: the lamb, the kid, the cow, the ox.
--The Barn on the farm that Edward Hicks grew up on and which later became his studio 
The Peaceable Kingdom unites law in the form of a treaty, multiculturalism, politics and nature.

The funny thing is that Hicks was not always living in his own peaceable  kingdom.  He was heavily involved in a Quaker schism and  delivered rousing sermons against the extravagance and usury typical of the European orthodox "lions" and "leopards" within of the Society of Friends.  Hicks preached a form of quietism where the wilful self and worldly pleasures where relinquished or denied.   The self would be emptied of worldly concerns and filled with the divine grace of God and the "Inner Light" of Christ.

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  Hicks believed that the light that enlightened the soul was inseparable from the light of God. "As light gives sight, so light gives sense."
As I walk through the woods of Tyler Park (much of which has remained unchanged since the days of Edward Hicks) down the streets of Newtown, I  can't help but think that for much of my life  due to my vision problems,  I ponder Edward Hicks and think about where I might agree and disagree: that for me that sense gives light.  Maybe this sense is informed by a higher power, an Inner Light.  I have had to go through life making mental models based on concepts derived through education, reason, "psychological truth", emotion and a fuzzy view from my eyes and ears.  It is only up until very recently that I can look at the world through my senses, each day better and better, and see what Nature is trying to tell me. 

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