Thursday, February 01, 2007
Edward Abbey's Crucifixion
Edward Abbey, the self-proclaimed barbarian, made this drawing in one of his notebooks. What confronts us here? On one level a crude joke. Blasphemous to some. And yet is it not in some way true to the Gospels? Look at his face, his eyes. To me he looks defiant. As if, if we ever let him down from the cross, he'd go straight back into the Temple and start overturning tables.
Look at the way the body sags, frail, mortal, imperfect. And - blasphemous detail - the son of God has a cock! Does this remind us of things we'd rather forget - and literally cover up? Human frailty, not divine perfection. Sex. Gender. The animal need to piss and shit. This figure looks to me a bit like Edward Abbey himself.
In his journal he writes of the religious vultures, "hunched in a row on the cemetery wall watching me, huddled in their ragged black wings ... around their scrawny necks the clerical ruff that hides the ugly separation of head and body, and inside their bald skulls, locked like a corpse in a coffin, the scheming little brain. Eaters of carrion, parasites on death, idolaters of fear and decay." In this drawing, he forces us to confront the body. He confronts taste and decency with a tormented human body.
This is an unsanitised crucifixion. An offence, as it should be. And a Jesus not sentimentalised but dangerous.
The picture, and the quotation, come from Edward Abbey, "The Confessions of a Barbarian," Johnson books, 2003. Among other things Abbey wrote a raucous, vulgar and subversive masterpiece, "The Monkey Wrench Gang."