The news every hour of every day is political wrongdoing and conflict. The pandemic news is all about conflicting information and warnings about our future. The outside air is smoke and harmful to our lungs. And, I haven't even started on Seattle politics, graffiti, arson and looting. So, here's a change of subject. It's not very important, but it's better than the news.
The Importance of Keeping Things in Proper Perspective
In 1545 Duke Cosimo de Medici commissioned frescoes for the main chapel of the Church at San Lorenzo in Florence. He selected Jacopo Pontormo to do the work. Pontormo filled the chapel ceiling with Biblical scenes – the creation, Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark. He worked in the chapel for 11 years rarely leaving it. He had closed the chapel off with walls and partitions so that no one could witness the creation of this masterpiece until he was finished. He died before he could complete the work. When his work was finally seen for the first time the observers were shocked to find the paintings were totally out of proportion to one another. Figures in one scene were entirely too larger or too small in proportion to figures in adjoining scenes. The artist had lost his sense of proportion. He had developed an obsession with the details of what he was painting without taking into account the adjoining scenes. He had lost the ability to see the whole picture. As a result, 11 years of work had to be replaced.
Does that remind you of our present situation in the United States. Everyone has fixed views about politics, religion and life. Discourse is impossible because the issues are seen as extremely important. Having a big picture about life, politics and religion is an objective for most of us.
The Struggle for Women’s Dignity and Role Has a Long History
In 1831 a young woman, Amandine Lucile Aurore Dupin, moved from provinces with her family to Paris. She was a writer and she wanted to publish her work, so she took it to a Paris editor. After reading it he told her “You should make babies, Madam, not literature." Every attempt to publish her work was rejected because she was a woman. Paris and Europe, at the time saw writing as a man's occupation. So, in 1832 she decided to submit her first novel, Indiana, under a pseudonym" George Sand." Not realizing she was a woman the publisher accepted it and it was a major success. From then on, she wrote under the name George Sand and dressed for publishers in men's coats, hats, and boots. Even smoking cigars like a man to continue her writing career.
Not a whole lot has changed since 1831 when it comes to issues of women and their role in our culture. They still struggle as do minorities. Our attitudes about these issues are slowly improving however.
The Bigger the Lie the Easier it is To Sell When Greed is a Factor
In May of 1925 five of the most successful scrap metal dealers were invited to a confidential meeting with the Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Post Telegraphs in Paris. The secret meeting was held at the hotel Carilion which was then the most luxurious hotel in Paris. They met with the Director General himself, Mr. Lustig. The director told them this was an urgent matter requiring complete secrecy. He shared with them that the government was going to have to tear down the Eiffel Tower because it was desperately in need of repairs. Since it was only intended as a temporary structure for the exposition of 1889, its maintenance costs had soared over the years. He explained that rather than spending millions to fix it the government had decided to dismantle it. He told them they had been selected to bid on the dismantling and metal. He invited them to make an offer for the Eiffel Tower, but in total secrecy. After bids had been received one of the five was notified that his bid was the winner. To secure the sale he was instructed to come to the same suite at the hotel with a certified check for winning amount (the equivalent today of about $1 million dollars). The winning dealer followed the instructions, but after arriving began to express doubts about the deal. In response, the director began to complain about his financial status and made other comments that led the dealer to believe the man was looking for a bribe to go through with the deal. That convinced the dealer that this man was genuine and the transaction legitimate because that’s what he would expect from a Paris government official. He handed over the money and was given in exchange an impressive looking bill of sale. He was told he would be notified directly when he could start the demolition work. However, since the matter was secret to not say or do anything until then, Over the next few days he waited for the notice from the government. When he heard nothing, he began to realize something was amiss. He began to make frantic telephone calls only to learn there was no Deputy Director and no plans to dismantle the Eiffel Tower. The scam had been pulled off by Victor Lustig, a highly skilled con artist from Austria-Hungary. He was counting on the dealer being too ashamed and embarrassed to go to the police. He left the country but continued to check newspapers for any reports of the scam. After waiting he returned to Paris and tried to pull the same scam a second time, but this time one of the dealers went to the police and Lustig had to flee to the United States to evade arrest. Eventually he was caught and sent to prison.
Pride, ego and greed are part of our human nature, but it is always shocking to see how some obviously fraudulent projects are so easily sold to others, especially when greed is a factor.