We want to feel better and if we can't to feel less. I could not see my way to feeling better. It was time to check out, turn off the news, cancel my Times and Post subscriptions. Then, I listened – twice – to Mr. Obama's final speech as President. Inspired, I put on and laced-up my shoes, as he implored. I rejoined the board of the local ACLU affiliate. I began writing. I'm approaching 300 posts since the carnage of January 20, 2017.

White, male, and Mormon in a perennially red state were my accidents of birth. I didn’t begin grieving my failed relationship with god until later in my 20s. With racism and homophobia as primary catalysts, the wheels started coming off during law school. Then my brother came out. To their credit my Mormon parents engaged in an advanced form of self-directed conversion therapy, not calculated to change their son but to exorcise from themselves the received homophobia fueled by procreation theocracy and sectarian over-againstness. They renounced ex-gay Mormon ministries. My mother compartmentalized homosexuality away from the other Mormon abominations. My father’s religious foundation more broadly destabilized by the hostilities surrounding his son’s gayness and, likely, personal shame for having lived, believed, and preached the party line. He entered a period defined largely by that disorientation.

His struggle is metaphor for my own. Although of few words, my dad was a most expressive person. As a visual artist, a painter primarily and sometimes-sculptor, and a university professor, he gave the world glimpses into his mind through two- and three-dimensional images which, as with words, are subject to differing interpretations based largely on what the observer brings to the interaction. Often subtle, sometimes emphatic, sarcastic or satirical, occasionally portentous, hauntingly descriptive and realistic, progressively defiant and abstract, his work divulged an inner turmoil in sharp contrast to his deportment. I have written and will continue to write about his curiosity, exploration, and stuckness.

What seems relevant to me, however, is his life-long archetypal struggle for meaning, for purpose, and relevance. Does art matter? Does his art matter? Does his expression make a difference? Why does he create? For whom? In the end, he found peace – he felt better – in self-expression as an end in itself, both process and product. He passed on Christmas day 2013, leaving as legacy proliferate reminders, many still buried I suspect, of an extraordinarily rich and conflicted mind.

Whether what I say has meaning, purpose or relevance, whether it matters or makes a difference, whether anyone else cares, the process matters to me. The product will pale by comparison to the importance, complexity and beauty of my father's work which I often feature in my posts. But that's okay.

·

Connect with R.VanWagoner