Surrender

The making and hanging of 'Surrender' symbolizes the process of forgiveness. It represents a conscious decision to lay down ones arms and give up the fight. It is about facing the wounds and letting them go.

 

The subject of 'forgiveness' is an interesting one. Intellectually I understand it and can see the sense in forgiving those who have betrayed and hurt us, but there is a big difference between understanding it and being able to do it. To fully implement 'forgiveness' is difficult. To start with, in a perverse kind of way, it feels so comfortable holding onto all those wounds and resentments as they reinforce our 'victim' status and our overwhelming desire to be right. They become an extension of who we are, the way we define and present ourselves to the world. To let go of them is unsettling, as what would we be without them and what would we have to hold onto? Apart from which, how does one let go and forgive?

 

I had been pondering on these things for some time, when I unexpectedly inherited an anthology of poems by Thomas Moore (c.1800). Browsing through this volume, I came across an ode that he had translated from the bard of antiquity, Anacreon, 6BC. The ode was about love, and as I read it, I began to feel the mists of confusion that surround the issue of 'forgiveness', beginning to lift. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that over the years, as we suffer the trials and tribulations of living, we subconsciously use our wounds to build up a strong protective layer of armour around ourselves, a layer we foolishly hope will ward off pain, past, present and future. Anachreon's poem made me aware of how we fight to keep love out for fear of being hurt, when in fact it is the lack of love, or our refusal to love, that really creates the pain. As I began to examine my own life, the idea for a ceremonial unclothing began to grow and with it the process of forgiveness began.

 

During the making of ‘Surrender’, I received many insights into the human condition. As I worked, the image of the cross began to emerge, without me being conscious of having put it there. I saw not only the cross, but the crown of thorns, both of which symbolise 'martyrdom', our reward for being so good and right, whilst everyone else is wrong. I realised how many of us travel through life seeing ourselves as martyrs and victims, gathering rank and status (the military 'pips' on the shoulders) as we go.

 

The flower image also began to appear, and made me think of growth and the desperate need we have to try to shine and grow, despite the weight of our emotional baggage. In reality, however, true growth and blossoming comes only when one is brave enough to remove the armour and say ' I've had enough of this. I'm not fighting anymore.'

 

As I observed the battle vest materialising before me, I was initially frustrated that it was so full of gaps and vulnerable areas. Then I began to see the message it contained. In our desire to protect ourselves, we foolishly believe that keeping a record of wrongs will somehow prevent further pain from coming in, when in fact, all it does is deepen the anger and add to the burden. Our protective coverings are nothing but a flimsy illusion, as real protection comes from within, from having a strong heart and a self esteem that says, 'I'm OK, I feel good and I can hold my centre irrespective of what comes my way.'

 

The white feather is my symbol of freedom, and coincidentally, the symbol of cowardice in battle. To me they are one and the same. True freedom comes when we step out of the battle and start making choices that will lead us to a happier and healthier life.

 

As I sit here now, reflecting on what I have written, it occurs to me that all of the above applies not only to the individual, but to groups and nations as well.

 

 

   

                                                    Surrender (Front)             Surrender (Back)

 

The poem, by Anacreon, translated by Thomas Moore, which inspired this artwork and is written on the back is below:

 

Ode X111

 

I will, I will; the conflict's past,

And I'll consent to love at last.

Cupid has long, with smiling art,

Invited me to yield my heart;

And I have thought that peace of mind

Should not be for a smile resigned;

And I've repelled the tender lure,

And hoped my heart should sleep secure.

But slighted in his boasted charms,

The angry infant flew to arms;

He slung his quiver's golden frame,

He took his bow, his shafts of flame,

And proudly summoned me to yield,

Or meet him on the martial field,

And what did I unthinking do?

I took to arms, undaunted too:

Assumed the corslet, shield and spear,

And like Pelides, smiled at fear.

Then (hear it, all you Powers above!)

I fought with Love, I fought with Love!

And now his arrows all were shed -

And I had just in terror fled -

When, heaving an indignant sigh,

To see me thus unwounded fly,

And having now no other dart,

He glanced himself into my heart!

My heart - alas the luckless day!

received the god and died away.

Farewell, farwell, my faithless shield!

Thy lord at length was forced to yield.

Vain, vain is every outward care,

My foe's within and triumphs there.