Friday, 22 July 2011

Lucian Freud, the lost boys & the perfect elder brother

Lucian Freud the famous realist artist has died today. His portrait work is known for it's spreadeagled, warts & all presentation. You won't like what he produces if you sit for him, but it will be realistic, every bulge, every inch of mottled skin, every imperfection exposed.

His art was as real & ugly as his life unfortunately. For decades, Lucian & his younger brother Clement were estranged. When Clement died a couple of years ago, the full picture of the divided brothers was hung on the wall for all to see.

The intense dislike of one another dates back to their earliest years. Stories abound, but the truth seems to lie in a race which they ran against each other through Hyde Park as boys. With Clement winning, Lucian shouted 'Stop Thief!' A passer by apprehended Clement, whilst Lucian sprinted on to victory.

For such a trivial boyhood rivalry to harden into a lifetime of hatred is deeply sad. Perhaps we should expect nothing less of the grandsons of Sigmund Freud, the Psychoanalyst. His extravagant theories of responsibility for such loathing probably point the finger back at him anyway!

Not long before Clement's death, Lucian was asked whether there was any chance of reconciliation. He replied in pugnacious style: "Why on Earth would I want to speak to him or see him again? I was offered a knighthood but turned it down. My younger brother has one of those. That's all that needs to be said on the matter."

So his younger brother was buried without him there, & now Lucian goes to the grave having carried an elder brother's resentment for a lifetime.

Cain & Abel, Esau & Jacob, Joseph & his big brothers, the Prodigal Son & his elder brother - these stories all show the same underlying anger that we carry in our hearts. A self justifying, self pitying, judgmental loathing which produces fruit of bitterness & hatred. You don't need a Freud to tell you that this is no healthy way to live!
The irony of all these tales of angry sons & lost boys is that we have a Father who invites both brothers to the table. The Father of the Prodigal welcomes the one son & pleads with the other angry son for him to also come back into intimacy.
Our way home is not through gritted teeth, or just forgiving & forgetting - rather by following our true elder brother, Jesus Christ into the love, acceptance & forgiveness that we all so desperately need, & which can be ours in the Father heart of God.

It's too late for Lucian & Clement to do anything about it - but what are we going to do with the years of estrangement & heart ache which we carry around?

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