Monday, August 31, 2009

Vulnerability Achilles Heel

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

There are two types of vulnerability: the kind you have control over and the kind that you do not. An Achilles’ Heel is a good example of vulnerability as a liability. The phrase comes from the legend of the Greek hero Achilles. The story is that his mother Thetis wanted to protect him by dipping him into the River Styx to make her son invulnerable. However, she held him by his heel with her thumb and forefinger (a strong mother!), thus blocking the magical waters from reaching all of him. Achilles is said to have died by an arrow shot into this same heel.

I suspect that it was this type of vulnerability, the fatal flaw, that then-President George W. Bush was thinking about after the horrible events on September 11, 2001. One of his initial reactions was to try to stop immigration into America.. After all, if we do not permit (more) foreigners to enter America, they cannot hurt us. America should not be so vulnerable. Right?

Well, . . . I was less than pleased. But I realized that I tend to see vulnerability as the greatest gift one could offer another. Thus the idea for my next sculpture “The Offering” was born. Sure, when we make ourselves vulnerable to another, we can be hurt. But I decided that if this vulnerability is our choice, then we come from a position of strength and goodness. Some things others cannot control.

In body language, one exhibits a lack of fear by exposing one’s torso. You will see this in many painted and sculptural depictions of political leaders. In essence, a brave and secure person is sending the message, “I can be vulnerable to you and invincible, too.”
The opposite position would be the curled up, closed fetal position that is designed to protect us. Our skeleton protects our vulnerable bellies.

Here are a few images that I took back in 2002 of the beginning of my marble carving, “The Offering.” Strangely enough, the middle images were taken on my late mentor Vasily Fedorouk’s birthday, August 16. I had met him only one summer before and it is evident by the sloppy crayon drawings that I made on my stone, that I have not yet begun to learn much from him . . .

Vulnerability: strength or weakness? As is so often, context is everything.

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