What is the soul of Sunday?
Shabbat comes first, to wipe the slate clean. This one was spent, as it often is, in the warm company of friends and family. There was a crowded table alive with conversation and company, overflowing food platters passed one to the other, strong wine, savory courses, chocolate desserts. There was the leisurely reading of the New York Times on the couch the following morning, the cozy cammaraderie of kiddush at our shul, a lazy lunch of leftovers at home, more reading, a high-spirited Scrabble tournament in the afternoon. There was the strenuous shoveling out of our Honda -- barricaded by walls of snow -- Saturday night; the subsequent drive out to Great Neck to visit MOBB and FOBB (mother and father of Bungalow Babe) with Little Babe and HOBB and Little Babe's electric cello and electric bass and cupcakes and noisemakers to celebrate FOBB's birthday.
And suddenly Sunday happened.
Sunday feels completely different from Saturday. Though I've always wondered if my perception of Sunday is linked to my Sabbath observance, it is possible that Sunday's difference is inherent and not relative. I wouldn't know. I've kept Shabbat my entire life and even when I've refrained from perfect observance, the aura of the day's distinctness remains draped over me like a permanent prayershawl -- a temporal tallit.
Shabbat commands you to refrain from creation. Sunday commands you to create.
Sunday instructs you: Go Forth. Shabbat impels you: Go to Sleep.
My preferred Sundays are constructed like totem poles, monumental, boasting a variety of faces, forming a formidable work of art, leaving you exhilirated and giddy and spent, heartbroken by the time night comes around and the scent of the imminent death of the weekend fills your nostrils.
There were several faces to this Sunday: the gift of fragrant roses, the joy of intense exercise, the necessity of work, the thrill of attending a live literary event featuring a beloved writer friend, a visit to the ICP -- the International Center for Photography in midtown http://www.icp.org/-- to see Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography and Paris. There was a delicious Middle Eastern dinner, swing dance class with HOBB at night and a candlelit adventure back at the urban bungalow for the two of us.
But this Sunday's totem pole bore a special face -- that of serendipitous discovery. Though we came to the ICP for the Paris exhibit (having dutifully read the listings Friday night in the Wall Street Journal, New Yorker and NY Times) we found ourselves pulled into the poignant art and biography of Miroslav Tichy, a Czech painter and photographer who lives alone in a rat-infested hovel in the woods, homeless by appearance, a crazy, bearded old man, an exacting visionary, an artist mercifully saved from obscurity.
Tichy's grainy, haunting images cover the carefully curated walls of the ICP's main gallery. They form a perfect contrast to the works of the surrealists in Paris one floor below. They hold you captive, draw you into Tichy's world, orderly and disordered, squalid and solitary and beautiful. They reflect magic and madness. They are the essence of rebellion against the rigors of communism. They are draped in a Sunday shawl, their scent is eternal Sunday afternoon, they present a Sunday face to the public.
What is the soul of Sunday?
The soul of Sunday is Miroslav Tichy, driven to build his own cameras out of found objects, to capture small scenes, gestures and details through his lens, to defy a crushing political regime, to foresake normalcy, surrendering entirely to the impulses of his heart, capitulating completely to the commandment to create art as he saw it, imprisoned by his terrible talent, liberated from temporal constraints and social convention, patiently waiting to be discovered by a grateful public.