Great Misunderstandings

Jack standing in front of a Sol LeWitt painting at Mass MoCA

It was Jack’s 62nd birthday yesterday and he wanted to go to Mass MoCA (The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) so that is what we did.  I don’t understand most modern art, or appreciate it the way that Jack does, but he was in heaven as we walked from one abstract piece of art to another, and I had a wonderful time seeing his wheels turning as he took it all in.

My sister was telling me the other day that she had just read an article about people’s reaction to art, (art that they didn’t understand), and that one of those reactions was anger. I didn’t see anyone yesterday that looked angry at the art, but I did see and hear some dismissive, derogatory gestures and comments.

Anyone doing something radically fresh and different, or proposing a new way of looking or thinking about the world, is going to be criticized and misunderstood at some point in their life.  It has always been this way. At a basic level, the “tribal  mentality” doesn’t want its members to step out of line and be original.

But we are here to wake up spiritually, and this means stepping onto the path that is felt by the heart…even when not fully understood by the mind, and sometimes when it is rejected by those around us. Do you remember the line from that song by The Animals, “I’m just a boy whose intentions are good, oh Lord please don’t let me be misunderstood.” Maybe our new song should be, “I’m just a gal (or guy of course) whose intentions are good, Oh Lord, thank you that I’m so often misunderstood!”

Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood”. Ralph Waldo Emerson (from his essay, Self-Reliance)

20 thoughts on “Great Misunderstandings”

  1. What a wonderfully happy and inspiring picture of Jack and the colorful worlds of light around him! It makes me want to go see this painting! I am imagining so many things…that Jack is just about to step into a time machine…or is just returning from a trip in one…or about to get on a fun ride at an amusement park…or he’s just presented his own art work and is taking his bow in front of a standing ovation…or a delicious fun birthday cupcake! I do not know the artist’s intent behind this painting but I do know that it makes my heart feel happy! Such a great post and a great quote, Mary! Thank you and Jack for a Monday morning ‘ride’ without even leaving my chair! And happy birthday (for the second time!) to Jack! Much love…

    1. I love the visual images that you have created Kathye! This painting was at the top of the stairs and as Jack walked over to it, I could instantly see it as a very fun photograph (and a birthday picture that he would never forget)

  2. Dear Mary. I love this photo! It is so happy…and Jack’s posture and energy are so celebratory. (Happy Birthday to you Jack). Your words ring true….being misunderstood is familiar territory for me, but your observations (as well as Emerson’s quote) are wonderful reminders that to be misunderstood is perhaps a privilege and an honor!

    1. Thank you Debra…I’ve been playing with the thought of “embracing being misunderstood” since I read Emersons words a few days ago and it makes me smile

  3. Happy Birthday, Jack! You look as if you’re holding up the Olympic gold medal you just won for the category of “being a great guy!”

    Mary, since I started reading your blog over a year ago, I have put your wonderful lessons to work for me and, as a result, I am feeling more free and more tuned in to myself, and I also have never been more misunderstood in my life!

    This is a GOOD thing! It has changed my relationships within my family, and all in different ways, which is most interesting. It has helped me pinpoint the one person in our family dynamic who quietly, and behind the scenes, stirs the pot. Now all I have to come to terms with is the pot-stirrer, and I’m doing a slow-but-sure dance with that.

    And so, let’s all raise our glasses to being misunderstood! Kinda makes us the Movers and Shakers, don’tcha think?

    1. I am raising my glass to your idea Suzanne,… I love it!

  4. Happy Birthday Jack! This is art on top of art! I think the artist would smile broadly to see you so joyfully embracing his creation! Mary, the minute I saw this photo and started reading the post, John Lennon’s song “I just sit here watching the wheels go round and round” was playing loudly in my head. Perfect lyrics to accompany Jack embracing his Wheel of Life and your quotations. Suzanne, I’d be honored to join your Mover and Shaker Club!

    1. This certainly was the perfect song Susan! Jack will love it when he reads the comments tonight, thank you

  5. Dear Mary, What a great way for Jack and you to spend his birthday! My husb and and I love art. One of our favorites things is to visit art museums. I love Pablo Picasso and my fondest memory is getting to see his painting Guernica in Madrid, Spain, and being so overwhelmed by seeing this after stludying about it in college years ago. So thank you for this great photo. Also thank you Susan for the amazing John Lennon video. A true lover of art and the joy it brings me! Joan

    1. It was a great day Joan, Thank you, and I am delighted that you like the photo too

  6. How clever of you both to have Jack’s hands positioned just so…wonderful picture, Mary. ‘To be great is to be misunderstood.’ be not so great, it’s easy too, to be misunderstood..and….the ‘tribal mentality,…. doesn’t want its members to step out of line and be original’…how true. I think back, because I can do this now that I’m on the lower part of the egg timer with the colored sands running through it…of how outspoken I was in my fine arts class at Art College (being an older student gave me some licence with teachers I guess)…I announced in my modern art class: “I’ll never like modern art…looks like some of those artists took toothbrushes and splattered paint on their canvases” (JPRiopelle)…but of course, I ate my words by the end of the first semester. I simply didn’t have an eye for it or understanding of it before. The instructor laughed. Like Jack, I love what is called modern art, but not all of it…some of it, quite frankly is not all that good but a lot of it is incredibly innovative and clever…coloring outside the lines, thinking outside the box, creative people do things like that. The herd mentality scares the heck out of me, too.
    SandyP in Canada.

    1. Thank you Sandy…I took the photo with my iphone and when we looked at it we were so happy with the way it came out too….fun, fun, fun

  7. Susan, all are welcome! I believe we will all create quite a stir.

    Thanks for the flashback to John Lennon….a guy way ahead of his time!

  8. Happy Birthday, Jack. Certainly does look like it was. Love this photo and the joie de vivre that radiates from it. Hmm, new perspective on being misunderstood, think I’ll embrace and stop trying to explain and just smile instead.

  9. Happy, Happy Birthday, Jack! Really loved this post, Mary, especially the thought that being misunderstood is a good thing! Love to you and the flock.

  10. Happy Birthday to Jack. Mary, half way through my reading of today’s post, before I got to your end quote, I thought…”Great minds think alike”. I paused to remember where the quote was from. Bingo! there it was at the end of your post. Emerson, of course. I used to teach “Self Reliance” to my American Lit. students. So here’s another quote for you: “Great minds think alike”. Would that be you and me??

  11. When I first saw this photo, Jack’s feet look like they we
    re levitating right off the floor—I’d title this magnificent photo “Enlightened”!
    Loved the message and the messanger…..

    Mz. Understanding, my kinda by- line. ;>)

  12. Hi Mary, What a nice day you guys had for your Jack’s Birthday! Happy 62nd Jack. It’s sometimes feels better to be the one giving of your self to a loved one, than to be on the receiving end I think. Some of the best pics I’ve ever had have been spontaneous ones on the I phone.(my man’s. I don’t have one.) I’d print this out, throw it in a frame and find a special spot for it. It’s so HAPPY! And he looks like a unique character! :))

  13. p.s. in re – reading what I wrote earlier, I see I made a mistake with the first quote I indicated… I meant to write ” to be great is to be misunderstood”…duh!

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