Isabella's Syndrome

Botticelli's Ghost, Digital Something - © R. Koleilat, 2008
Do you know the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston? It’s one of the many pleasurable finds in that amazing city. Gardner was an avid art collector, and she bequeathed her vast treasure of works by the Old Masters for all of Boston (and the world) to enjoy – with strings attached: The precious collection was to be housed in her mansion, also part of the legacy, and no object in the collection or the mansion could ever be moved or removed; or else the whole kit and caboodle would be sold and the proceeds would go to Harvard University.

I recently came across dear Isabella again in a book that had nothing to do with art but everything to do with transition and change. The authors*, both eager de-clutterers, use what they delightfully term the “The Isabella Gardner Syndrome” as a parable for (the sometimes irrational but still perfectly understandable) fear of change. In a cheeky aside to a chapter about "finding a good home" for no-longer-relevant belongings, they talk about Isabella’s obsession thusly: “Needless to say, everything in the [museum] has remained unchanged, even to the blank space on the wall where a Vermeer painting hung before it was stolen. In her final years, she would sometimes rear up in her bed and cry out, “You there! Don’t touch!” to imaginary strangers. Her ghost is said to return to the museum once a month to make sure everything is exactly as she left it.”

Don’t we all have a little bit of Isabella in us? When faced with the unfamiliar, when a new path has to be taken, we often wish we could be as imperious as her and decree that nothing shall ever change. Luckily for me, I’ve learned that change is almost always for the better – or at the very least, I can will it to be so.
And now, a profound profundity to end this post: if things never changed, all we'd have would be caterpillars and not even one butterfly. So there.

*Culbertson, J. and Decker, M. – “Scaling Down”


Fawzan Barrage said...

very optimistic and refreshing post my dear. At a time when we are going through change it is the right way to look at it for sure. :)

Bobbie said...

Lovely work. You are so talented my dear. Really, I am sincere! Change is good, it keeps us from rusting in place :) I have been known to be attached to my possessions, but I must say she has me beat!

Andi said...

Thank you for this post, Rima. I have been thinking about some de-cluttering in my life lately and you've given me that final nudge in the right direction.

Frances said...

So - don't pack those boxes, just go!
Great to see you back here again. I have really missed you.

John said...

My feelings almost exactly.

I like the twins.

Neda said...

Butterfly, spread your wings and delight us with more of your exquisite writing and amazing art. Seriously.

Frances said...

Now get on and do a post of something YOU have done. Or a challenge for us to do something you have done. Come OOOOONNNN Rima, whine whine whine

The Artful Eye said...

Lovely, inventive digital. Two sisters trying to convince each other of something.

Maybe I'm a weirdo but I love change. I don't like things to be stagnant, as a matter of fact I prefer the unknown, the newly discovered path, a challenge. I'd be miserable if everything stayed the way it was.

Glad you're back even if it's just a teaser.

One of my favorite quick parables about change is "Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson/Ken Blanchard.

I've lived large in small places, lived small in small places and even lived small in large places. It's about attitude.

Thanks for a great post!

John said...

if I post a pic of a dead mouse will you return? most polar bears must be way off north by now.

Rima said...

This mouse is moving house... we're drowning in boxes

I want to write something witty and interesting, but my brain went into hibernation with the polar bears and forgot to come back

I do have a dozen or so projects for the blog and the website though, I just need a time machine to be in June already

I love you guys - even though I don't comment much these days, I do peek in from time to time and am awed by what I see on your blogs - I'll have a whole lot of catching up to do in a few weeks

Frances said...

c'moooooooon, Rima. Just one little itty bitty post... a tiny challenge for us - some inspiration to make some art, go on - get out of that cardboard box and have a break from packing.

Anonymous said...

A prayer for your family and friends in Lebanon.

Frances said...

just one comment, relayed from the ether.
Who is Rima? tee hee. No-one remembers your name, when you're strange.... when you're strange....