Jo’s recent blog post, found here, makes some excellent observations regarding material attachment in spirituality that can distract our focus away from our gods. By this I mean icons and little material things that we can invest significant amount of energy and excitement for which can easily distract us from the god that we are adoring in the first place. Not to say that is what was happening in her situation, nor that the painting that was damaged in shipping was directly associated with any kind of material attachment, but her observations strongly resonate to me.
The reason I find this subject so important is two fold, and actually seeming somewhat contradictory. I mean, I am an artist who makes icons, I should be all “yay material attachment, buy my stuff!” But it is more complicated than that. The fact that it was one of my own paintings that was damaged on route does not in fact sit well with me as it has been the first time that has happened out of all the paintings I have mailed out over the years (but I guess it was to happen sooner or later at some point *sigh*). Aside from offering a refund, which I did, there was little more that I could do other than file a claims, which I also did. So the issue at hand is not about how it affects my bottom line as an artist, but rather about the product itself, for even I tend to be a little attached to the things I create. It would seem that by my own attachment, and also providing goods of spiritual icons that potentially can be likewise attached to that I would be cutting off my nose to spite my face. So why would I feel a need to even discuss material attachment in spirituality?
It is because it is an acknowledgement, as an artist, that the icons, while they are pretty and nice to have, and do have symbolic importance (for which yay buy my stuff! lol) they are still just objects and should never ever become of such high value that they potentially distract us from the relationship we have with our gods. As an artist I have to recognize this. I have to recognize when I am pouring every bit of love and devotion into every statue I create that in the end it is still just a statue (or painting/drawing in those cases). And yes this even happens with gods that I do not have personal relationships with or gods that are outside of my pantheon that I am not even really familiar with as I tap into that idea that there is love and devotion out there for this god or goddess and riding that emotion as I create. As an artist I am creating through spiritual material attachment in many ways. And yet when I am creating I find no fault with that. It is part of what allows me to create something that others see as having very expressive features. Therefore spiritual material attachment is part of what I do. But on the flip side it is very hard for me to let go of stuff after they are created. So as a crafter this is a particular double edged sword. And one that cuts deep when something I have created is damaged. A significant damage can be devastating. This is my weakness.
That said as a worshipper I have found that I have to keep some kind of objectivity, or rather that I have to keep some level of detachment, especially when it comes to icons that I have made gracing the shrines and altars of my gods. I have to separate myself from being the creator of the image and be only the worshipper. I cannot be conflicted by attachment. Unfortunately it is something that I struggle with daily, if only because of the knowledge that I know that I would not be able to be completely detached should one of the icons I made for my gods were to break past repair. But it is something I regularly remind myself. These are cherished symbols of my gods, but they are not my gods and should not be grieved for. Nor should such importance be put on them, such value that it would lead to them being grieved for in the event of their destruction.
This is especially the case as a priestess of a god such as Apollon who highly discourages such attachment. Something for which he has reminded me countless times. I cannot count how many times cherished icons of his have broken or otherwise been ruined in one freak accident or another. I have said more than once that the Destroyer has often destroyed just about every image I have had of him eventually. There is that kernel of knowledge in me that one day I will come to find the images of his shrine broken, and he will be there bidding me to start again. Create again. Sweep away the rubble and give myself in my love and devotion in the creation of his image again. Because it is about my love and devotion to him, it is never to be about how much I love possessing his likeness. And he does not hesitate to remind me of that again and again.
Icons are beautiful, but they are vessels. They ought to be treasured as one would treasure a cup (albeit a sacred cup), there purpose is only for that which you put in it for it carry. They have no more value than that. It is not bad to have icons, it is a positive thing, but perspective is a good thing to have.
P.S None of this is to say that I don’t work my ass of trying to mend broken icons, because I do!