Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Abner Dean's Notebook, Part III.

[Part one and part two . Click on images to enlarge. The commentary in italics below the cartoon is Dean's.]

Nearer to the heart’s desire

As long as there’s anyone making a more beautiful mud pie in a column of sunlight in the heart of despair -- there’s hope. Hope for a world reconstructed. Nothing has to be the way it is. Only the earth has continuity (or what we consider continuity in relation to our limits) -- man is not complete -- nor are his mores. He and they are changing. There is a slow and bloodless revolution in progress. None of our concepts or constructions are necessarily permanent. Out of a good mud pie may come a new world.

It would be easy to read this drawing as a condemnation of the character in the sunbeam, who seems completely oblivious to the suffering around him. (He looks at the dog, not at the parade of people). In this way, he seems to share the sense of self-delusion often possessed by Dean's main characters. But here, as elsewhere, Dean's comments show an appreciates for those who try to imagining new ways of seeing, thinking, and making art. Even if the result appears comical (an ordered mound of dirt and water), it shows a desire to imagine -- and to try to create -- a better reality, one that can have positive social consequences.

So rather than coming from above, it is as if the beam of light emerges (like the flower) from the mud pie, a comment on the generative power of art, and its ability to illuminate social realities in an abstract way. Perhaps Dean is telling us it's not that the main character ignores the suffering around him, but that the others overlook the hope in their midst.

[In the third to the last sentence, Dean writes (gradual) in a different pen above "and," suggesting that he may have wanted this sentence to read: There is a slow and gradual and bloodless revolution in progress.]