New York City can wear you out, spiritually. I suppose that’s why so many people go there, to face the challenge. Thanks to Target, Friday evenings the Museum of Modern Art gives out free tickets for its world-class collection. We knew that Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night was there, and had planned on seeing it sometime. Well, Friday of spring break offered an opportunity, so last night, with several hundred, maybe a few thousand, others, we made our way to MOMA. We arrived around 5 p.m. and found the line literally around the block. It wasn’t as cold as it had been, so we braved the hour to wait our turn. Yes, it was worth it. As my wife noted, it was very good to see so many people wanting to see art. Manhattan offers many, many other diversions for a Friday night, but hundreds opted for art. I had long anticipated this. Since my school days I’d seen replications of many of the paintings in the museum, and it was inspiring to be packed in so close with so many people wanting to be close to art. Hoping, somehow, to commune with the emotion in us all seeking such profound expression.
It was a little difficult to commune, however, with so many other religious seekers. This is a religious experience, to touch the soul of another. Standing inches away from The Starry Night, I could almost feel the desperate, longing hands of van Gogh stroking out a manic sky, surreal and ethereal. I could almost hear the echo of his spirit. Were it not for the many crowding next to the painting to be photographed with it. Fellow spiritual seekers, I hope. Van Gogh was a troubled soul, as we all know. How many artists take their own lives after reaching out to touch what so few of us even dare. A sadness so profound as he climbed down that mountain. The starry night is the photograph of a suffering soul.
Then there was Edvard Munch’s classic, The Scream. On a limited engagement at MOMA, facing, just across the hall, van Gogh’s Starry Night. Was there ever such depth of soul in such close proximity? It was there that I began to question the faith that I had hoped impelled the countless masses yearning to observe free. MOMA allows photographs, and cameras, cell phones, and iPads were ubiquitous. To reach The Scream was to endure a crunch of strangers’ bodies pressing you forward, cell phones held aloft, illicit flashes popping, worried looking docents. I was anticipating another spiritual moment when I heard a woman say that she had to get close for a picture. “This is going to be my status!” she cried. So this is modern spiritually, the life splayed on Facebook, bragging about bagging Munch. Yes, Edvard, I am screaming too.