Vol. 2, Issue 17, April 27, 2004
Mona Lisa Smile Lines
There are certain Institutions upon which we may Rely, the Bedrock of our culture and Being. Some of these are Abstract: the fluted Columns of our lofty Democratic institutions, for Example, laid down by our Founding Fathers but two Centuries ago; the deeper rocks of Roman Law lying Beneath them. Some of these are more Concrete: the noble Distilleries of Caledonia, for example, need no Introduction in this regard! And some are artifacts of Artistry, pinpoints of Stellar Luminescence lighting the soft black Night of Mankind's history.
The celebrated Joconde, the Mona Lisa, is surely not Least among these artifacts. Stalwart bastion of Western artistry and handmaiden to the Renaissance - scion of the genius of Mr. Da Vinci; there are few Objects so Recognizable as she. Durable and impregnably Sealed in her Display case, she is a cornerstone of the Louvre and of our artistic Selves. Imagine then our collective Shock to learn that she is aging, the carefully crafted Poplar substrate gently warping over Time.
Should we be Surprised? There are but a Few objects in my Office which are of comparable Age: the Gutenberg Bible is one, to be Sure, as is the copy of Columbus' map - treasures from Great-uncle Elijah's travels. They no longer serve their same Purpose, I am afraid, as they did when they were Crafted. To leaf through the Gutenberg on a daily Basis would soon render its pages into Dust; to rely on the Map would cause it to quickly Fray, not to mention get you thoroughly Lost. And yet these objects are peoples' Legacies, silent messengers bearing Witness to their deeds long after their Demise. Do we not All leave such messengers, sending forth the artifacts of our Lives by the Legion in the hopes that at least a Few will persist long into the Future?
Some few of these Messengers arrive from Unexpected places, such as the Graffiti on the walls of long-doomed Pompeii. Likewise, I have no Doubts that the very singular Exploits of my Nephew shall persist as Legend among the local Constabulary for many Generations to come. We cannot Control or Anticipate these accidents of History. But the Masterpieces like the Joconde, we nurture and wish Well. Perhaps that is Why their passing in spite of all our Efforts strikes us to the Quick: for if They cannot forever endure, what chances have our Own modest messengers to the Future?
It is for This reason that I consider fine Scotch to be among the Greatest of Artistic Achievements. Lovingly crafted and guarded for Decades, this most hallowed of Achievements does not fulfill its full artistic Destiny until it is Consumed. It is the Appreciation of its Flavor and the Memory of its smoky Undertones that persists, kept Alive in our desire for another Glass. This, to borrow from blind Homer, is the True Immortality afforded to us: so it is with 12-year old Balvenie, and so it shall be with the Mona Lisa, when it has finally succumbed to the Passage of Time, and so shall it be with me.
Hmm - speaking of smoky Undertones... Why, by Thunder, come to think of it, I could use another Glass myself. Here's to you, my good Mister da Vinci, and to your enigmatically smiling Progeny, for however Long she may endure, and Beyond.