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Harney-Davila 1 Isabel Harney-Davila ENGL 3000-002 February 17, 2017 Hennessey Bluets Response In James McBride’s The Color of Water, James ask his Jewish mother if God is white, as most paintings centered around Christianity depict God and/or Jesus as a white man. His mother tells him that “God is not black or white; He is a spirit, “the color of water” (M
    Harney-Davila 1 Isabel Harney-Davila ENGL 3000-002 February 17, 2017 Hennessey Bluets Response In James McBride’s The Color of Water  , James ask his Jewish mother if God is white, as most paintings centered around Christianity depict God and/or Jesus as a white man. His mother tells him that “God is not black or white; He is a spirit, “the color of water” ( McBride 51). The use of color in describing God or qualities and/or characteristics of God occurs in Maggie  Nelson ’s  Bluets  where she states that she sees “the fingerprints of God”  in color, specifically in the color blue, where through detailed imagery and personal stories she alludes to how God and the color blue share parallels to each other to a certain degree, but not equal. She stands by her claim by alluding her personal experience and interactions with the color blue in its multiple forms and symbolism through blatant and subtle biblical and literary references, psychological,  biological and neurological phenomena, and philosophy. Religion focuses its attention in the separation of the sacred from the profane with “ the sacred referring to the collective representations that are set apart from society or that which transcends the humdrum of everyday life (Routledge “Sacred and Profane” ) and just as God,  being sacred is separated from the unholy, the color blue can be both sacred in some regard and  profane in the context provided in  Bluets . She begins with the sacred aspects of blue in the form of an object in which that blue object “could be a kind of burning bush…” (Nelson 2) in    Harney-Davila 2 reference to the biblical story of Moses to whom God appeared as a burning bush providing knowledge, as God is filled with wisdom and knowledge, of the world just as any blue object according to Nelson could be “an X on a map. . . [that] contains the knowable universe” (Nelson 2). The map illustration provides an example of the separation of the sacred, the knowledge or treasure the map is pertaining to, from the profane, the physical map itself but then Nelson wishes to begin with the opposite - the separation of the profane from the sacred citing the French poets Stéphane Mallarmé who “began replacing ‘le ciel’ with ‘l’Azur’ in his poems, in an effort to rinse references to the sky of rel igious connotations” (Nelson 3); here the poet is stripping off any semblance of sacredness of the profane referring to the sky not as the ‘le ciel’,  heaven, but to the Azur, blue. Nelson though does not cleanse her novel from religious connotations but embraces them as evident in that the word ‘God’  appears fifteen times within the novel and uses biblical events juxtaposing blue with the essence of God. Blue is similar to God in its holiness attribute- its otherness  –   as Nelson points out there is little  blue food in nature noting “blue in the wild tends to mark food to avoid” (Nelson 4) and that although the color may reduce appetite it feeds into another sense prompting one to “reach out and disturb the pile of pigment. . .but still [one] wouldn’t be accessing the blue of it” (Nelson 4). The same way one may interact in a church, lighting the holy candles, chanting a prayer, singing psalms, reading the bible, all of which are ways to ‘disturb’ or interact , to some degree, God but even with those actions one is still not really, truly, accessing God through it; blue much like God cannot be directly and intimately accessed even through interactions that should  provide some form of access to know God or the color blue.  Nelson’s beloved b lue became a ‘holy’ color” during the twelfth century in the advent of ultramarine “. . . and its subsequent use in stained glass and religious paintings” (Nelson 59) in which Nelson seems to imply that the    Harney-Davila 3 color blue to her is no longer ordinary, profane, but now other and if the color blue is to hold the same ‘otherness , ’ to become sacred so to compare it with God, then Nelson has to pick out fraught moments of her experiences with the sacred blue from her other profane experiences that do not resemble or consist of what blue is to her. Although Nelson references the theological capital God in the Christian faith she also attributes blue to other gods in other religions and philosophies referring to the blue in Buddha and his “blue auras [which] were the oldest-known application of lapis on earth . . .. a ‘blue rush’” (Nelson 31)  and Krishna, a god in Hindu religion, often depicted as a blue -colored youth and is renowned as a lover who marries princess Rukmini and takes more wives after (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica “Krishna”)  which relates to her own experience with her blue  prince who left her for another woman whom he married. There are other gods though that do are not boxed into any particular religion as Nelson has gods of love, obsession, death, alcohol, in which like the blue pigment and God, she can in actuality access the erotic love of sex which is often viewed as explicit and “unholy” but Nelson blurs those line between the sacred and profane when her blue consist of her sex life which she can access directly and physically her love, feel deeply her despair, able to stain her fingers with it, “dilute it and swim in it, rouge [her] nipples with it, [. . .] paint a virgin’s robe with it” (Nelson 4)  all of which she does not find dirty, explicit, unholy, but quite the opposite as she recalls a dream she a month before fucking her lover. After ‘fucking’ (her words) her lover in the Chateau Hotel, whom is now asleep as she sits looking through the blue tarp, an angel appears and tells he r to “spend more time thinking about the divine”   (Nelson 7) and she counters it stating that “the prince’s unbuttoned pants are the divine” (Nelson 8) . She further argues her point when questioning theology and how the color  blue was used in “mosaic after mosaic, painting after painting, [in which] Jesus stands    Harney-Davila 4 transfigured . . . in the mouth of a glowing blue mandorla  . . . or vesical piscus, the shape that in  pagan times, unabashedly symbolized Venus and the vulva” (Nelson 6 5). She continues stating that she is “not sure whether the reason for the “blue pussy” was “meant to convey both divine  bewilderment and revelation”  (Nelson 65) and adds that she feels the color is right and is  beautiful “…despite what the poets and  philosophers and theologians have said. ”  Nelson thinks that the beauty of blue “neither obscures truth nor reveals it”  (65). To draw the final parallel, although there are many more, within Bluets of how blue is in essence, God’s fingerprint can be found in truth as in the Christian faith where God is the Way, the Light, and the Truth and according to Nelson whom she cites Joubert who writes that truth must be surrounded by colors and figures so that it is visible to the eye (Nelson 48) in which the color  Nelson not only sees the truth through a blue lens in blue figures and objects of her lost love. It is through this blue lens that she is able to process her experiences with greater clarification which is “one of the characteristics of truth…” (Nelson 48)  and she sees blue as truth as Christians in view God as truth and the Buddhist view Buddha’s  Enlightenment as truth. To James McBride God is the color of water, clear, and transparent but to Nelson she sees God in blue and only  blue.
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