All the Beauty

All the Beauty

This week I’ve figured we all need as much balm for our battered spirits as we can easily locate. I have a book handy that I really enjoy. This book brings back a lot of memories: Patrick Bringley, All The Beauty In The World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me, Simon & Schuster, 2023.

Once I lived within walking distance of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. At that time I was enthralled with their Egyptian exhibit. I visited often, rarely missed a free day. What treasures – I was lucky and I knew it as I freely wondered the museum. Poetry was a reason for my Manhattan visits and again, lucky, my teacher at the Academy of American Poets told us of Auden. Here is Patrick Bringley: 

“There is often this streak of realism in old master paintings. As W.H. Auden observes in his poem “Musee des Beaux Arts,” even the “dreadful martyrdom” takes place “while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.” (Auden writes of the old masters: “About suffering they were never wrong. . .”) I take this crowded middle of the picture to represent the muddle of everyday life. Detailed, incoherent, sometimes full, sometimes gorgeous. No matter how arresting a moment is or how sublime the basic mysteries are, a complicated world keeps spinning. We have our lives to lead and they keep us busy. [underlining mine].

Brinkley continues, “In my life ahead, I will be needed and have needs; the hope is I will do everything I can and have others do the same for me. I won’t have my big brother. I feel that loss. Looking at the picture, I know he would be part of the alert, praiseworthy, no-nonsense crew bending over Mary. But I can look at my inner portrait of him even now—that bright, frank Titian-painted face—and take comfort. That’s a picture I can certainly carry out of the Met with me.” pp 174-6

Here’s a second explaining quote from Brinkley, and some philosophy: 

“Grief is among other things a loss of rhythm. You lose someone, it puts a hole in your life, and for a time you huddle down in that hole . . . It turns out I don’t wish to stay quiet and lonesome forever. In discovering the cadence with which I meet people, I feel as though I’m discovering the kind of grown-up I’ll be. Most of the big challenges I’ll face in life are also little challenges I confront in daily interactions. Trying to be patient. Trying to be kind. Trying to enjoy others’ peculiarities and make good use of my own. Try to be generous or at least humane even when the situation is rote.” p 102

Let’s learn more about Brinkley from Eileen Kinsella, 5 Moving Life Lessons a Former Museum Guard Learned From His Time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, artnet, July 28, 2023.

Quoting Patrick Brinkley, Eileen Kinsella writes: “When in June of 2008, Tom [his brother] died, I applied for the most straightforward job I could think of in the most beautiful place I knew. This time, I arrive at the Met with no thought of moving forward. My heart is full, my heart is breaking, and I badly want to stand still awhile.”

“From guarding the art, to watching millions of visitors from around the world (and no shortage of locals) stream up the grand staircase each year, to making friends on a diverse team of about 600 fellow guards, Bringley’s book, All The Beauty In The World: The Metropolitan Museum and Me (Simon & Schuster), is not a tell-all. It is more a love letter to one of the world’s most beloved institutions. As an added bonus, Bringley, who left after a decade, is now leading tours of the Met, with an appendix to his book listing every single artwork referenced in the text to help curious visitors find them inside the museum.”

. . .  “Come in the morning,” Brinkley advises in his book, “if you can when the museum is quietest – take time.”

And one more bit of deep feeling from Brinkley:

“Art often derives from those moments when we would wish the world to stand still. We perceive something so beautiful, or true, or majestic, or sad, that we can’t simply take it in stride. Artists create records of transitory moments, appearing to stop their clocks. They help us believe that some things aren’t transitory at all but rather remain beautiful, true, majestic, sad, or joyful over many lifetimes—and here is the proof, painted in oils, carved in marble, stitched into quilts.” p 178

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