Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Halo Effect

Mother, put those boobs away!  I'm already too wise & saintly for them. 

I have always been a big fan of European Medieval painting.

Back in those days you didn't just set up shop as a painter and decide to paint still lives, a couple of dogs sitting around playing poker, or a jump-suited Elvis in concert on velvet 

You painted Jesus.  

You painted Jesus with a total lack of artistic perspective and depth, with the infant Jesus looking like a shrunken adult about to present his graduate level dissertation at Brandeis, and always adorned with a humongous disc about his head and shoulders that looked like a golden Frisbee on steroids.  

That humongous disc is more commonly known as a halo.

Just about every painting of Jesus and his mom shows them both packing halos so large the back of their necks seem likely to sustain third degree burns.  One can't be sure if those who followed the Star of Bethlehem to check out the baby Jesus were enthralled that he was the Messiah or aghast at the preternaturally enormous halo he'd been super-endowed with.

The same is true of paintings of Jesus and his disciples. All of them are rocking halos!  How did that work?  Were the disciples all born with halos just like Jesus, or did Jesus hand out a halo to each newbie as they joined up?

The Halo Effect in paintings of the Medieval and Early Renaissance periods raises many fascinating questions, all of them blasphemous. I believe these questions can be boiled down to an essential three:

1) Did Jesus actually appear in life with a halo?  If so, why didn't everyone follow him and how screwed are we Jews today?

2) What of those people who don’t have halos?  Are they evil, just common folk, or did they leave them in their other tunic? 

3) Do halos require cleaning and polishing?  If so, is there an over-the-counter product? Must you clean a small area in the back first to make sure there's no staining? 

I'll defer the answers to these questions to wiser heads than mine, all of which probably possess halos. But wouldn’t it be great if halos really existed outside of medieval paintings? They could serve as handy guideposts to everyday life. 
If you were looking for a ruthless and unscrupulous ambulance-chasing attorney you’d be careful not to select a lawyer with a bright halo over his head. You’d want a scrapper, not a saint! If you want to get lucky in a singles bar, bypass even the hottest of women if they exhibit an orb so bright it practically blinds you.

But if you’re thinking of donating money to a worthy charity, the person in charge of the place better be sporting a halo the size of Connecticut.

And if you’re seeking a personal Messiah?

"I am the Messiah.  I am the Light.  I am ..."

"Hold it, buster!  Where's your halo?"

"Halo?  That's only in paintings."

“Then why does Tom Hanks have one?”

“Of course Tom Hanks has one!  I’m only the Messiah.”


All right, guys, stop rubbing it in!


Lynn said...

Hmm. Never thought about that before but, well, yeah. Now that you mention it, it is kinda weird.

What else is weird, Perry? What else is right beneath our noses every day so we don't even notice it and still ... well ... weird? :-)

Perry Block said...

The philtrum?

Why, I am obsessed by it!

Russell said...

I always wondered why that period of history was called "Mid-evil." This implies it was sandwiched between "Less-Evil" and "More-Evil." Although I'm not sure which one we are living in today.

Perry Block said...

I think we are both in "late Mid-Evil." And that's as old as I'm getting, halo or not!