A blessed and happy month of Our Lady to you all! And welcome to my
newsletter for May, 2007. Please feel free to forward this to anyone
you think would be interested in keeping up with me! To receive these
newsletters regularly, please drop me a note or subscribe online at:
. Notices of new
paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.
This coming Sunday, May 13, 2007, marks the 90th anniversary of the
appearance of Our Lady of Fatima to three children in Portugal near
the beginning of the twentieth century: a century that was marred by
more ideologically-driven violence and bloodshed than any before it.
These 90 years since the first appearance of the apparition have been
a reminder to all of us that we don't, perhaps, understand our world
as well as we might suppose. And this can be a cause both for anxiety
and for hope.
The world's citizens seem to break down into two camps. The first camp
includes those who, for lack of a better phrase, don't believe in
anything transcendent. That is, unless something can be proven to
them, unless they can see it with their own eyes or measure it with
their own hands, they will not believe in it. These are the Skeptics.
The second camp includes those who believe our world is only seen
"through a glass darkly," as St. Paul tell us. For these folk, there
may be myriads of angels and archangels, elves, demons, and devils
that inhabit the world with us, along, perhaps, with other creatures
for which we have no names. And above all of these is a Supreme Being,
for whom there are many names. These are the Believers.
When I was very young, there was no doubt that I was a Believer.
Growing up in the north Georgia mountains, one is enveloped in nature
so rich with possibilities that one can imagine elves under every leaf
and demons under every bed. I saw our house in the woods as peopled
with ghosts and hemmed in by woodland spirits.
But "higher education" cured me of my belief, at least temporarily.
Reductionism and materialism, both of which represent a deep mistrust
of anything that cannot be controlled, underlie much of what passes
for college training in the western world. Anything that smacks of
magic is only achievable through technology. And any other sort of
magic is mere delusion. Material success and the generation of wealth
must be the ultimate goal of all humanity.
Such is the mantra of western materialism. And its catechism is
taught in virtually all western colleges. We are a culture of weapons
without wisdom, of power without prudence.
It took me many years after I had graduated with my Masters degree
before I started getting inklings that my training was deficient.
There were the almost mystical experiences Lorraine and I had at the
seashore, including several that defied (and continue to defy) logical
explanation; there were "chance" meetings with those who helped us
both question our lack of belief; there were books that guided us. And
I'm reminded now of C.S. Lewis' comments about an atheist's need to be
very careful about his reading materials.
Eventually, Skepticism fell away from me as easily and as naturally as
does a cocoon from a butterfly. And I've come to think that being a
Believer is our natural state. We can be trained to be Skeptics, but
our natural inclination is to learn from what is around us and to seek
something in existence that fills a deep void within.
And this brings us back to Our Lady. We may never know for certain all
that she told the three children in Fatima some 90 years ago. We may
never fully understand her warnings or what might have happened had
they been heeded.
But we do know that a world without such messages is an impoverished
place, a place with no deep and meaningful answers. And even if it
seems sometimes that there is no magic at all in our world, we are
enriched by believing that it is still possible.
As Puddleglum suggests to the witch in C.S. Lewis' "The Silver Chair",
even an imaginary world that includes the transcendent is more worth
living in than one of despairing materialism. Even make-believe would
be, in this reckoning, more real than reality.
- The ZENIT news service out of Rome (Italy, not Georgia )
interviewed me in April for a short news release on J.R.R. Tolkien's
"The Children of Hurin". I was delighted to see such interest in the
book! Plus, according to the final version of the resulting article, I
am now officially a Tolkien expert, and not just a Tolkien artist! ;-)
- I have many new paintings to post, but am in the process of breaking
my website, www.JefMurray.com, into two different sites. The first
will continue to highlight my oil on canvas paintings of sacred
images, imagined fairy tales, and scenes from Middle Earth. The second
site, which will be at www.JefMurrayWildlife.com , will include all of
my oil-on-wood cutout paintings of wildlife, both realistic and
whimsical. I'm hopeful that this change will make the focus of each
site a bit clearer. It will also allow me to make my oil-on-wood
cutout originals available for sale online. This change was suggested
by a recent patron of my "Rivers, Reefs, and Reading Rooms" show, who
is a scuba diver, and who wanted to be able to send let her diver
friends know about the aquatic creatures I painted.
- The May/June issue of the St. Austin Review (StAR) (http://
www.staustinreview.com/ ) should be out shortly. It features a number
of excellent articles on liturgy, plus includes my first regular foray
into the world of feature writing(!). With this issue, StAR
inaugurates a column entitled "Fenestrae Coeli", or "Windows into
Heaven". The column will highlight the work of contemporary Christian
visual artists from around the globe. The May/June column discusses
the work of Tommy Canning, an extremely gifted Catholic artist from
Scotland (see http://www.art-of-divinemercy.co.uk/
- My latest show, "Rivers, Reefs, and Reading Rooms", was a resounding
success, both critically and financially! Of the 45 pieces originally
placed, 16 were sold by this last Wednesday(!). More importantly, the
feedback from those who were able to attend was without exception
extremely positive. Many thanks to all of you who supported the show
and who passed word on to others!
Nai Eru laitalyë (may God bless you),