Wednesday, July 29, 2015

If not for brotherhood, the rivalry between them may become deadly

The following three excerpts depict three moments in Davids story: the first, when he starting ruling over the entire country and was enthralled to build his city, the City of David, and his palace. The second, when the construction of the palace has been completed, and his sons begin a rivalry that will end up in one of them executing the other and mounting a revolt to topple his father, David, off the throne. And the third, after the revolt has been quelled, when he comes back to a palace in ruins:

My court is abuzz with suppliers, artisans, architects, interior designers, engineers, carpenters, brick layers, and contractors, all of them eager to win a commission from me, which makes it challenging to do my work: consult with my spiritual advisors, discuss policy matters with foreign diplomats, and exchange niceties with the elders of our tribes. I thrive on the excitement of it all. 
Workers are rubbing off excess cement, which they have poured earlier across the ground, so the geometrical mosaic design starts to appear from the dirt, in all its brilliance. Inlaid with colored glass from Tyre, trimmed on all four sides with glazed tiles from Shushan, and dotted on all four corners with shells from the delta of the Nile and pebbles from the river Tigris, this floor will create a new, vibrant ambience in my court.
A master craftsman bows deeply before me, to the point that his sketches are nearly dropping out of his portfolio. 
“My lord,” he says, in a heavy Egyptian accent. “Let me decorate the walls of your palace, all of them, the same way I did in the burial chambers of the pyramids.”
“But,” say I, “this is not a tomb.”

“Too bad,” he mutters, under his breath. “Unfortunately, the living are more particular about art than the dead.”

I look around me at the decor of my palace, in which I have invested so much time and thought, not to mention gold and silver. At last, the renovation is complete. The workers have packed away their tools, stored away the ladders, removed the scaffolding, and left. In their absence you can now see the entire space, and take in its magnificence.
New, exotic draperies are hanging from the gilded trim above the arched windows. Their fringes are delicately embroidered in silver, and threaded with fine gems. The entire floor has an abstract geometrical design done in mosaic, with colored stones and marble. The walls are covered by cedar wood panels with fancy inlays in them, contrasting various stains and directions of wood grain. Flames are flickering in glass oil cups in the large metal chandeliers, which makes the vast space sparkle with light. 
This is so different from my humble home, back in Bethlehem. I have created something about which I have been dreaming since the days of my youth: a grand shell for justice, learning, and power. 
And like a shell, it is fragile. 
I pray that my boys would create their own memories of this place, because if not for brotherhood, the rivalry between them may become deadly.

The first sign that the palace was looted is the way the gate to the courtyard is sighing in the wind, swaying lopsided back and forth, forth and back on a single hinge. The doors of the palace carry muddy boot marks, and the latch is broken. I enter, and find myself appalled at the sight of destruction.
The geometrical design of the mosaic floor, which has been laid out in my court with such care and artistry, is missing most of its details. Here and there, its stones—including the colored glass from Tyre, the shells from the delta of the Nile, and the pebbles from the river Tigris—are missing. 
As for the curtains, they are crumpled in a heap, torn and utterly soiled. In the women’s quarters, the frames of the embroidered panels are smashed. Pearly beads are strewn across the floor, the only remnant of the jewelry that was stolen. The rooftop outside my chamber has been torched, and charred slats that used to be part of the wooden lattice around it are now dangling over the edge.
But the most heart-wrenching sight is not the damage to my property—but to the women, the ten concubines whom I left behind, on the night of my escape. They are wandering listlessly about the place, looking more dead than alive. If anyone comes near them, they start screaming in fright. 

David Watching Bathsheba Bathing

Nathan Rebukes David

The Legacy of David

In writing these segments I was inspired by artist James Tissot, who depicted three moments in David's life, all of which he set up on the balcony of his palace. In these paintings you can see time passing not only by looking at David, maturing from a young lad to an old psalmist, and not only by the garments he wears, which are increasingly richer and more regal, but also by the updates in the decor of the balcony.

In the first painting, David Watching Bathsheba Bathing, David is sitting on a simple blanket that separates him from the hardness of the stone seat. There is a tiled design along the sitting level of the balcony and along the stair that raises him from the floor level. 
In the second painting, Nathan Rebukes David, a new tile design has been added behind him, as well as gridded panels that allow blocking the hot summer air or opening in the evening to cool down the area. Also David is sitting on a mat of Sheepskin. 

In the last painting, The Legacy of David, the columns have been replaced by richly decorated columns with fancy three-tiered bases, the tiles have been removed so as not to compete for attention with the bas-relief backsplash under the columns, and David is sitting upon an upholstered, specially designed cushion. Light bounces from the page to the sweet, young face of the scribe sitting at his feet, writing the history and the psalms of the king.

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  1. Good job on this thank you for sharing

    1. Oh thank you Martin :) Love hearing your voice.