This year more than any other, the concept of “the better angels of our nature” has constantly been on my mind.
Maybe it’s been on yours, too. You may know this concept from the famous Lincoln quote:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
or from another US president’s inaugural address, Richard Nixon (who perhaps should have heeded his own words):
To a crisis of the spirit, we need an answer of the spirit. And to find that answer, we need only look within ourselves. When we listen to “the better angels of our nature,” we find that they celebrate the simple things, the basic things–such as goodness, decency, love, kindness.
Watching the challenges in the world this year, I kept hoping for those better angels to show up more often. I often wondered where they were – where were those parts of ourselves that set aside hatred and self-protection, and aimed for empathy, compassion and forgiveness – for each other, for our planet? I know they are out there, in here, all around – it may not be fashionable, but they need to speak up and show up.
So, with better angels on my mind this holiday season, I had to paint another of my favourite angels from Melozzo da Forli’s incredible fresco in Italy’s Loreto Basilica. Painting her gave me calm and more perspective. We’ve been painting angels for centuries for a myriad of spiritual reasons, but this coming year, she’s reminding me to stay closely in touch with my own better angel.