Overheard Wisdom by Brandon

From a conversation between two old acquaintances seeing one another at a restaurant.

Elderly woman: You've got one leg in heaven.

Elderly man: But the other leg is so heavy!

Photo: A jeepney near Dagupan City, Philippines. (Brandon Keim/Flickr)

Rest on the Flight to Egypt by Brandon

In this tender scene, the Holy Family is shown resting in their flight to escape Herod, the ruler of Galilee. Joseph had been warned in a dream that Herod was searching for the Christ child to kill him. Attended AAAS a couple weeks ago with the intention of letting ideas percolate on their own, without covering it in any immediate way.

As a result, no guilt about being unable to recall the text for the section in which this Aert de Gelder work is displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts, where the Association gave their science journalism award; having seen it on an empty stomach and a few glasses of wine, I remember something about the religiously orthodox duties of painters in that time and culture. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the text above, and the scene made me wonder about de Gelder himself; maybe he wasn't quite so doctrinaire.

Joseph appears distracted from his Bible by the pleasant sight of a baby nursing -- is it "the Christ child?" Or just his kid? Suckling, for the moment, on the lovely breast of his wife? A heartwarming and miraculous moment, yes, but not without some pleasantly non-religious implications. They are resting, after all. Image and explanatory text: Boston Museum of Fine Art

Rest In Peace, Audrey Santo by Brandon

Last weekend I learned that Audrey Santo is dead.

Santo, who at age three fell into a swimming pool and spent the final eleven years of her life in a comalike state known as akinetic mutism, was believed by many to be a victim soul, chosen by the Virgin Mary to take upon herself the sufferings of others. Thousands of people made pilgrimages to her mother's Worcester, Massachusetts home; Audrey's presence, they said, caused oil to flow from statues of Jesus and Mary, and after visiting her many claimed to have been healed.

I spoke to many of these people in 2004 while writing about Audrey for Boston's Weekly Dig. It was the last story I wrote for them, and was never published; the editor wanted me to make it edgier, to be more caustic. I didn't have much enthusiasm for that, and the story withered. What was the point, I thought; who was I call to call pathetic and laughable and cynical something that soothed the suffering of others?

Audrey died this April. The never-published article is here.