The Imperfect Portrait: An Analysis of the Human Condition, from a Christian perspective

Introduction

One year ago, “The Imperfect Portrait” was self-published on a WordPress blog. What originally began as a small assortment of poetry, transformed into a story told in poetic form about the human condition. It tells the story of a prideful man and how a set of circumstances ultimately humbles him to view life in a different lens. Throughout these twelve poems, topics of love, loneliness, lust, maturity, and Christianity are explored and displayed in a transparent, vulnerable manner.

Meaning behind the title

“The Imperfect Portrait” can be viewed from two perspectives. One is that humans are unique portraits, each with our own color palettes, shapes, and illustrations. And in some way, we reflect the Painter. We are “his workmanship.” (Ephesians 2:10)

But there are gaps. Spaces that hasn’t been filled in yet. Flaws that are better off hidden. This sense of feeling incomplete is evident in how we function as humans. Always trying to seek something that will make us feel whole. Money, sex, power, accomplishments, etc. In our pursuit for perfection, we try to leave behind our imperfections. Thus, humanity can be seen as a collection of “imperfect portraits.”

The other perspective is to add an apostrophe and change the title to “The ‘I’m Perfect’ Portrait.” Now, the focus is shifted on the innate desire to be seen as perfect. Ignoring one’s flaws and only displaying the qualities that leads to self-gratification. This desire to be loved and accepted is the main conflict that both characters face.

Both perspectives are equally valid, in that it showcases the heights of arrogance that we tend to climb. Either through overbearing arrogance or self-exaltation. The methods may change, but the destination remains the same.

Background

This book was written in the span of a summer, specifically during the last semester of college. Naturally, many narratives were created and considered when composing these poems. A man struggling to accept who he truly is, a Christian coming to terms with a sovereign God, and a writer who wants to be among the greats. By the end of the writing process, all of these narratives were able to be woven in.

But there had to be a way in which each poem can relate to each narrative. Thus, the character  Two Dope was created. His story would mirror the one about Icarus, the classic Greek character who died due to an unwillingness to accept his limitations. The wings that Two Dope flies on is his own delusions of grandeur. To that end, Two Dope would have to “die” at a certain point due to his own pride. Perhaps it would have been sufficient enough to stop the story there.

Brother Humbled then enters. And he is the antithesis to Two Dope. The tone of the book shifts from boastful thinking to thoughtful pondering as Brother Humbled is now viewing life through different lenses. A Christian lens. Instead of wanting to be served and adored, Brother Humbled now wants to be a servant, although the transition will not be as easy as expected. This internal dilemma culminates in the last poem, where Brother Humbled pours his heart out to God and receives a response concerning his purpose in life.  

When approaching this book, it’s important to recognize the different perspectives. Although each poem were written independently, it is possible to connect each poem to a specific character. The book is structured into two halves, dedicated to each character. And with enough imagination, the reader can even be inserted as well, adding a layer of interactivity.

Visual storytelling

Each poem is paired with a poster. The posters are meant to act as a visual foreshadowing of what the following poem will be about. Rather than address the posters in their respective poem analysis, the following are brief explanations of each poster:

I’m Two Dope- A black background filled with smoke and a skeletal hand emits a sense
                           of foreboding.

In the Night- A dark composition with small pockets of lights, detailing the uneasiness of                           walking alone at night.

All of my Friends- Using the Facebook color scheme and blank profile pictures to show                                       the ironic nature of social media.

A message to J- The white space and typeface evokes the feeling of writing a professional email to a work colleague, as opposed to writing a heartfelt plea to a lover.

Sea Sick- The ships represent the progression of a romantic relationship. This one in                          particular ends in a shipwreck, with the last ship being tilted down.

No Correlation- A painting that contains boxed-off illustrations. The separation                                                is apparent in that there are no possibilities of reconciliation between                                    each work of art.

The Fall- A clouded sky as the backdrop and a slanted arrow creates the sensation of                          falling from a tall height.

I am Brother Humbled- A blackened heart becoming anew. It visually depicts the inner                                                 workings of a person coming to faith in Christ.

Nocturne of the Nerd: the college years- This picture was taken at the Tampa campus of                                                                             the University of South Florida, where this poem                                                                           takes place. The vintage filter and font choices                                                                               call back to the college experience.

Flowers, next to Machines- The blending of these two different objects connects with the                                                   message of being both creative and practical. The fonts also                                                       accentuate the differences, yet come together to complete the                                                   title.

Loving (You) is Complicated- The heart and cross are two symbols of love. Yet like the                                                            poem suggests, it’s difficult to achieve these various                                                                      standards of love.

Imago Dei- Meant to be the closing poem, the sunset represents the end of a journey and                        a time to rest. The cross with two swords represents the internal battle that                          every Christian deals with daily.

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