The refuse amassed in the complexity of our relationships with each other and the world around us, the need to regularly discard the garbage of our brokenness and the real and symbolic power of water to clean makes this a powerful image for new beginnings. All cultures and religions find ritual ways to wash and start life again as a new person. All cultures and religions recognize a weakness in the human creature that necessitates repeated chances to restore right relationships. All cultures and religions provide ways to start life over with new insights and fortified with renewed strength to do better next time.
Sometimes these religious or cultural rituals are rooted in an historical event, sometimes in a mythological narrative, sometimes in the human lifecycle, and sometimes even in the turning of the seasons. Whatever the origin of the ritual, these symbolic actions are recognition of the human need and desire to seeks ways to begin again … to seek reconciliation with our families, our communities, our world and with our creator.
Koopmann’s small painting captures this ancient human ritual’s most modern manifestation. The workman’s task in the darkness and even his clothing becomes an apt metaphor our desire to seek a shield from the muck we have created or to seek reconciliation outside the bright lights of accountability of life in community. Like this workman, we will hang our apron and galoshes on a hook because we know we will retreat to the privacy of the dark hours and perform this ritual again throughout our lives.
But reconciliation and a truly transformative renewal require something more. For the Jewish prophet John the Baptist, reconciliation required a ritual washing done in public place in the bright light of day and in the presence of the lives and broken relationships that necessitated the cleansing. He knew that the bad choices of our brokenness can destroy the very relationships and communities that give us the ability to be the fullness of what the creator made us to be. Reconciliation is not a private action, but rather a public act of allowing the community to restore the brokenness. A truly transformative renewal requires more than a private act of atonement. For reconciliation to be complete, we cannot seek out the cover of darkness or the solitude of back alleys to fix what we broke apart. For reconciliation to be transformative, we need the bright light of day, the presence of those we have wronged and a throng of observers to keep us accountable to our proclamation and promise for new life. A long grey latex apron and lime green galoshes cannot shield us from the messiness of this course of action.
I adore the way that Koopmann captures vignettes of the common practices of everyday life … our joys, our quiet moments, our day to day interactions with others … and sometimes Koopmann catches something else.