Monday, March 7, 2011

One Painting, Poverty, and a Girl Named Destiny

Today, "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," a 1932 painting by Pablo Picasso, of his mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, goes on public display for the second time. It is showing at the Tate Modern in London. It sold last May for a record price. The bidding, amongst nine people in the room and on the phone, started at $58 million. It was bought by a private collector for $106.5 million. Let me repeat that: 106.5 million dollars.

"Houston," we have a problem.

And duct tape isn't going to fix it.

Last night, 60 Minutes aired a segment about poverty in the U.S., particularly as it affects young people. It was a very sad look at how they feel about it and how it impacts their lives, their view of the world. These were heart-wrenching stories of homelessness and going to bed hungry, told by articulate young people who never expected this would happen to them. A young girl named Destiny really caught my attention. She could have been me. In many ways, she is me. She's really All of us. Her story is Our story.

The segment concluded with a very dismal outlook:  this could well be an entire generation shaped by homelessness and hunger.

44 million of our fellow citizens live in poverty.

$106.5 million for one painting.

You do the math.

Destiny and her family may be living with the accepted definition of poverty, but those malnourished souls who believe money and possessions define it are the truly impoverished.  Destiny's soul is alive and well.

May it always be so.


  1. i only pray that each of us, in even the smallest way, can begin to see ourSelves in others. then we will understand what holds the most value.

    this post is so touching, my friend.

  2. I Agree With Your Maths.
    Art should be the Servant Of (Wo)mankind .Not Visa-Versa.A Strange World we live in.......

  3. Michelle, I just visited your site. I love that you used the word 'destiny' in your post today...

  4. Tony, A very strange world, indeed. I like your statement regarding art. Thank You.

  5. And yet surveys continue to show that the wealthy are no happier.

  6. Linda, They are a sharp reminder of what is of true value. I hope your week is off to a good start.

  7. Amazing what some people think they need for happiness, I too liked those material things at one time.I have worked with some low income people and many times it is multigenerational by choice. Sad to think you don't want to pull yourself up if you could. I feel for those new to it now with our economy.I help those I can and still could use a little myself.I worked all Thursday morning for a neighbor.She asked what she owed me and I said she was paid up with a smile.We need to extend ourselves.A report said if we made 3000 jobs a month we still would be at 6% unemployed in three years.

  8. I wonder what Pablo himself would have done with $106.5 million ! I have been liking the English TV "How the Other Half lives". A Wealthy family is linked up with one living below the poverty line. I sit their crying seeing what a long term difference a little help can make, lifting them out of poverty cycle.

  9. Steve, I believe some people get stuck in an impoverished frame of reference and have a very difficult time rising above it. These issues are difficult and run deep, but I cannot imagine anyone actually Choosing to live in poverty, unless they've taken a religious vow abstaining from those aspects of the material world. There are millions of people who have no way to "pull themselves up." There simply are not enough jobs to answer the need, as you mentioned in your last sentence. To me, there is no "other." We are all part of the whole.

    Thank you for reading and commenting. It sounds like you lead of life of service to others and that is a noble thing.

  10. The sad thing is that someone has $106 million to spend on this... which I'm sure is part of their collection which has cost tens (or hundreds) of millions more. The system has made a few people obscenely wealthy.

  11. Joan, I'm not familiar with the show, but I can certainly understand your response. While watching 60 Minutes the tears fell for these children and their families.

    It's really a question of what do we truly value, what Should hold true value. Perhaps we will someday look at these questions and their answers quite differently.

  12. Nancy, Exactly so. Obscene. And that is the real issue facing all Americans, as that system is still in control. I like to believe the tide Is turning, imperceptible though it might be. We shall see...

  13. Teresa,

    This travesty, the widening disparity between the rich and poor (and now middle class too), is the one thing that I really get angry about.

    In the U.S. the top 1% of money earners control 99% of all of the available money. That means the lower 99%, and that includes many millionaires, gets to share the 1% leftover!

    Another statistic I saw recently. The top 400 individual money earners make as much as the lower 50% of money earners in the US. That means that 400 individuals have as much money as 150 million (or more) people.

    Worse, the wealthiest hide behind corporate logos and now control almost every government representative we have. Since the Supreme court said that a corporation is an individual and can contribute unlimited funds our political system has become even more corrupt. Did you know that corporations spent more money in the last federal election as it had in the previous 14 years?

    My God. This is so infuriating.

  14. Bill, I share your feelings. I'm trying not to stay in anger, but some days... I love, as you know, the wilderness and all its beauty, but when people are living with such despondency...

    I write about what I feel called to write about and that sometimes includes this "harsh reality."

    I'm glad you read and commented. I appreciate your thoughts.

  15. How sad it is... Do these "rich" see? feel? understand? The use of their influence, money, time, compassion, abilities to helping this world would bring them greater happiness. A life of meaning, a life valued, rather than this display of self indulgence. I watch these people, the "stars", athletes, the wealthy and just wonder about their pitiful lives. We watch them fall, delve into dark worlds, then hear them cry about their misfortunes... They're a pitiful lot. I do not wish them any ill, but I do wish them a new outlook, new values and spiritual growth. Gosh...wouldn't that be wonderful? Great post, as usual...

  16. Yes, great post. I also watched that 60 Minutes segment, and it just made me so sad about the direction our country, indeed our world, is heading. I feel a tremendous underground groundswell towards change, real change. Thank you for being so articulate...

  17. Lynn, There are deeply ingrained attitudes that run counter to the healing that this country, the world so desperately needs. New values would go a long way toward answering that need.

    DJan, It was a very moving piece, wasn't it? Thank you for your comments.

  18. I cannot help thinking about this man who has spent that much money on a painting. How can he do it? I would have the baddest conscience in the world. Those money could help so many people. I don't know if he's also giving some to charity, but this is not good enough. He should be ashamed of himself. Cheryl says something true about these "rich" people. Do they see.....
    Thank you for this post Teresa.

  19. Grethe, It's hard to fathom that level of thought, isn't it? I like to think that it can and will change, but sometimes it's not easy to see that possibility. Yet, hope remains.

  20. I do agree with your general point. But the original is not a painting nor is it art (although the reproduction quite definitely is). It is an investment in exactly the same way as a lump of gold or a suitcase of foreign exchange is. Sad, but true.

  21. Alan, I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment. I think investing is fine, but for me, it still begs the question, how much personal "investment" does one person (or couple) need? It seems we might be entering a time when we should rethink the idea of "investment." If a person is at this level of investment, why not invest in human potential??

  22. "told by articulate young people who never expected this would happen to them"

    That statement grabbed me. The kids "get it", they know they are being lied to, their bullsh*t detectors work just fine. I look at my kids and get depressed, because they are well aware of reality. Our "leaders" discount this, blowing them off as inconsequential.

    Our family is working on building a future living based on our crafting, gardening, cooking, repair, music and artistic skills. There may be no future "jobs" (and who wants a crappy "job" anyway), but we will create a living.

    Forward to the past.

  23. Hi Tom, Being prepared (and preparing our children) for a new way of being is exactly what would benefit the world and all its inhabitants. I appreciate what you've said here.