• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 07


My spirit twists and lashes out at the precision of my hand as I draw. It rebels at my grip on my brush. It is tired of the greys and diluted greens and pastel blues.

Yet it is with these colours and these brushstrokes I might open a window into other places. “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” This world, with its unrolling vastness, demands boundaries. Explanations. I must quell my spirit and be armoured with logic as I illustrate creation.

For do we really exist if we do not have a category? We all must inhabit our room, as pictures in a frame or ornaments arranged in a box. To know ourselves we must know our box, and other boxes. This conviction has ever pushed me in my explorations: it is ordained by God that we reign supreme upon creation. It is on us to civilise the world, and so it is imperative that we know what our civilisation is in comparison to other, lesser civilisations. To chart a cartography of our French supremacy, if you will.

And yet, I wonder. Is it that simple?

The barbarians who lurk around the periphery of our French civilised society. Sometimes accepting the Lord Jesus, becoming baptised and stepping into our box. Sometimes circling outside, wild animals fascinated and fearful of fire. Who are they?

I’m not usually this discomfited. It is my wife’s doing. It is ever a woman’s work to rouse passions in the most unseemly of ways.



I was educating her on the Holy Lands, striving to impress upon her female mind that we were all stars arranged in a terrestrial galaxy, with fixed orbits. Some higher and some divinely ordained to be lower. Each in a neat box.

I wonder, she said, what box they put us in.

It was an astonishing and foolish thought. For who cares what a barbarian thinks?

Sometimes I wonder who she is. I am so pulled towards the newness of other places my own hearth has become foreign.

I focus on my work: depicting the Syrian women and their manner of dress. They are curious things. Unfeminine, refusing men to see their form. I do not understand their men. Not only do they encourage this rebellion, but no matter how we penetrate their lands they will stop us short from entering the women’s quarters. How much more comely are our French women, with their accommodating revealing of their cleavages. They know their place in the world. It is not for woman to say no to man. Or for a barbarian to refuse a French man.

I enter my study and here is more discomfiture, for my wife has been cleaning. Everything is disarrayed. This, I realise wryly, is what bothers me so about her. She disrupts all the boxes I spend so much time constructing in accordance to my masculine rationality.

My spirit whispers to me. It is rebelling against its box.

But I will not let it win.