The Beautiful Gallery of the Heart

Seeing one another clearly through compassion

The painter Maud Lewis’ house interior

“Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy

whatever I touch or am touched from.”- Walt Whitman

Recently, my wife Julia and I watched a double feature of Wonder and Maudie. Both films feature main characters who are challenged by being physically different. Julia picked out both of these films and I must admit, I was reluctant to see them at first because I thought they would be hard films to watch. It was date night and, not feeling we had the energy to go out, I was leaning towards a desire to enjoy a surface entertainment, rather than diving into to something that might emotionally drain my reserves. What is curious about that resistance, is that I’m aware that the rewards of being inspired by the endurance of the human spirit, leave us filled rather than depleted.

Maude Lewis painting

What made these films so wonderful was the love that made its way through the scarred landscape of individual suffering to fill the lives that were portrayed with meaningful connection. In both films, it was the beauty offered and received from the heart of the individuals allowing themselves to interact with one another that reminded me that life is sweet, even while we are battling sore. It isn’t lost on me that this is also one of the themes of Passover and Easter.

This film experience came on the heels of seeing a talk given by Dr. Andrew Vidich about compassionate communication. Doc V, as I like to call him, shared something from his teachers that I found powerful. Namely, to make the person you are talking to the subject of your heart and not an object in your mind. As both Wonder and Maudie explored in depth, we have been trained culturally to look to the body and the outward appearance of things first and foremost.

The internal spark, animation, soul, or Being inside us is like a bush that is covered in flame and is not consumed. It takes a moment to be able to catch on, to observe and see the miraculous in and beyond the surface.

This time of year, is celebrated not only for Spring, which as a Florida/California transplant, I appreciate more fully now as a resident of New York, but by the holidays of Passover and Easter. These holidays, while seemingly separate on the surface of things, are intertwined within the metaphors they uphold.

Passover, for me, is about our struggle as human beings to see one another clearly. The pharaoh, or the person in charge, (often our mind), hardens its heart in order to continue seeing those around him as objects, or slaves. Even when freed from the bondage of such oppression, it can take a long time, say, upwards of forty years, to actually see ourselves as beautiful inside and out and claim the holy land of our true being.

Maude Lewis painting

Easter also has wonderful symbols for us to explore. Jesus is credited with saying, “Tear down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). He was not talking about the temple of Jerusalem but was referring to his body. For me, what is important about this story, is not if it is literally true, but the concept that we put our trust and fear into upholding our bodies and our personal images. What is vital is the spark that connects us. When we lose someone that we love, for example, what is real about them transcends the physical and merges with us.

The advantage of being able to cross the bridge between stories, cultures and faiths is to hold the paradox of recognizing that the spirit of Being goes beyond our physical appearances and allows us to revel in just how beautiful we are, as we are. When we see each other fully, then each wrinkle, every seeming deformity can be cherished.

The poets know that nature is whole and sings to us, as it is. The outward changes are a rich banquet to be savored with family and friends, or in the sanctity of our own company.

May the art that you are not be hampered by chains of conformity but flourish and be displayed in the galleries of those that surround you. May the gallery of your heart add wings to contain the exhibition you have been granted in return.

Maude Lewis painting

Originally published at on March 30, 2018.