Friday, October 28, 2016

Wheel of Fortune

Listen HERE to my short podcast on my new art, Wheel of Fortune, and follow along below.

In Gothic cathedrals and illuminated manuscripts, there is a common motif. A "Wheel of Fortune." I created a literal/modern artistic interpretation of this ancient theme, because its essential lesson - detachment, or what theologians call apostasis - is timeless.

And it especially speaks into my life in a season of change. Of seeking center.

The wheel is traditionally divided into four parts:
In Medieval representations of the Rota Fortunae, or Wheel of Fortune, a human clings to the rim of the wheel at the four cardinal points. Having a penchant for simple, literalistic interpretations of all things ancient (ha!), I opted instead for a fortune cookie as my agent. Let's see how that fortune cookie crumbles...

At the top of the wheel, the agent is king. Planting the fortune paper like a feather in his crown, the king says, Il regno. I reign.
But power, wealth, honor - these goods of the world - are fickle friends, all. What a precarious position, to be king. Is it any wonder those with power - those who seemingly have it all by the measures of this world - are often the most insecure and miserable human beings?
Inevitably, the wheel turns. The king falls down and breaks his crown. And the poor deposed monarch exclaims, Regnavi! I once reigned.
Now there comes a time in all our lives, without exception, that we hit rock-bottom. The wheel turns again. We, poor souls, are crushed by the Wheel of Fortune. It seems like all is lost, from this vantage point. But paradoxically, with a shift in perspective, it is a liberating place to find ourselves: there's nothing more to lose, and nowhere but up from here. 
In the great monomyth, this is the place of death. Disaster. Crucifixion.
Sum Sine Regno. I am without power.
The wheel turns again. And then that cookie puts itself back together with renewed courage and, its new manifesto tucked around it like a superhero's cape, exclaims Regnabo! I shall reign! (Look out, king.)
And as the song goes, "the wheel in the sky keeps on turning, and I don't know where I'll be tomorrow. Oh, the wheel in the sky keeps on turning." 
And this is the point, friends.
Whether you're king or pauper, falling down or rising up, the rim of the wheel is a cruel and vicious place upon which to attach our lives. Our worth.
What are we to do when we feel like the wheel is spinning us?
Detach from it.
Get off the rim and get centered. 
1) Stop playing the game. Up, down, left, right. Just don't play it. Step away from the drama and the people who create it. 
2) Practice consistent spiritual disciplines like prayer and meditation. Tune into that "still, small Voice" at the center of the universe. Make that Voice the Power-Source of your life.
Because at the center is the cross (do you see it?). The place of apostasis that crucifies and nullifies all the powers of the world. Cling to it. Let nothing else define your worth.
Because life, it's going to keep turning. Guaranteed.
But you don't have to let it dizzy you up.
From the center, you can watch the wheel turn, and shrug with detachment.
"Ah, there it turns again."
Il Regno. Regnavi! Sum sine regno. Regnabo!
And that, my friends, is how the fortune cookie crumbles.

(Perhaps I especially love this theme because it was my childhood dream to be on the game show. Funny how life surprises you. What a wild ride that was!)
Note: I owe my own education on the Wheel of Fortune to the teachings of Bishop Robert Barron, who regularly cites this metaphor in his talks and homilies at