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The kid-free zone

Last night Kelly was kind enough to let me have my first Dad's Night despite a rather rough day for her. Not that the kids have really been getting to me in these first few weeks of SAHD. But we're strong believers that you need some time to get your brain back into the adult world. Like a toddler needs stimulation to develop, an adult needs the same.

It's funny how as I'm getting older, my tastes are changing. My old favorite things are no longer my favorite things. I've come to appreciate under-appreciated things. I've come to enjoy things that take time, have substance, or are thoughtful--contrasted with the new and shiny and different of my younger days. Kelly and I consider this to be growing as a person...with the trick to do it together as a couple. Neither of us, certainly, is the same person we were when we met.

When I used to walk into the Art Institute I'd head for what most people probably head towards. Famous Impressionists. Radical modern art. Famous art from Picasso.

Last night's expedition was for different treasures though. I was drawn in by the Dutch Masters. I spent time with Buddhist and Roman statues. I explored tribal art from Native America and Africa. It's amazing what you learn from human history when you see it through the eyes of a museum.

Not that museums don't gloss over the more ghastly aspects of life on the planet. Museums tend to show us the best, by nature. Our aspirations and what we are capable of. It's exactly this type of refueling I needed though given everything going on in the world lately. Counter to the Hobbesian idea that life is "nasty, brutish and short" the timeline you get from a museum is something more eternal, connected, and mysterious. Almost religious.

Yes, I'm raising kids in the 21st century, but many of the things I deal with are really no different than the year 1500 or even the year 500. People are still drinking wine, loving, struggling, and trying to make sense of it all.

Photo via The Art Institute of Chicago. 

I was particularly drawn to this painting by Rubens of the Holy Family. For an interesting reason. It's John the Baptist--you probably can't see the facial expression because he is facing away on the ground. But it's a look my son has given me a thousand times before. And Rubens captured it perfectly in all its lifelike glory. Part joy, part mischief, part delight. Hard to explain. 

Or it was much the same with the mythology. Obviously, we named our daughter after mythic history so it's on my mind lately. But there's something about a 2,000 year old story that still rings true today on some emotional level. Or seeing an enameled masterpiece made so specifically without brushstrokes that it could be a photograph. Vermeer didn't have the internet or digital anything yet he could produce reality with such perfection that we hang it on the wall because we still want to see it.