Good, Evil, and Painted Eggs

Philippine painted egg Christmas ornament

I put the tree away weeks ago.

I don’t even make it all the way to the 26th before I start to feel antsy. After the lights and baubles of Christmas time, I need to reclaim my home. All I want is to clear everything away and create space. Physical space, yes. But, mental space as well. I need everything in our house to breathe a little. Because, I can always feel all that I want to do next looming, just at the edges. There is an urgency and insistence to move. I take down the tree, not as a act of closure, but as a gesture of welcoming.

I mention all of that simply because it speaks to my state of mind when I ran across the following.

The last ornaments to come off the tree were the painted eggs I bought in the Philippines a few years ago. A row of brown paper boxes awaited them, each with the negative image of an egg created in the tissue paper nestled inside. Reaching in the first box, I noticed a slip of paper folded in the corner.

It read simply, “According to legend, as long as eggs are decorated, goodness will reign over evil.”

I held the slip of paper in my hand and read it again. It seemed a bit hyperbolic. Of course it is ridiculous to suppose that the eternal battle between good evil could hinge on the act of applying a bit of shellac to a hollow egg. Almost all of me can see reason. Nearly every atom in my rational mind knew this was meant simply to be a historical note, a bit of marketing material, at most.

But, then, there was something in me that quivered at those words. A tiny part of my soul that trembled in the face of this theory. That celebrated it, that wanted to shout it from the housetops.

Before my reason could squelch that little spark, I began to envision, not just the eggs being painted, but the people doing the painting. In my mind, I saw women sitting around tables, sitting on chairs and on the floor. They are gathered in ones and twos, in homes and in shops, and they are making. They are taking something supernally ordinary, something typically discarded, and creating with it a miracle. They are creating both a work of art and a way forward for their families. It doesn’t feel like a stretch at all to suggest that these women are holding back the deluge of evil.

I thought back to when I would stop by their booth to look at these eggs. I would touch each one gently, move each piece delicately aside to see the next. The woman standing at the booth would laugh at me.

“They won’t break”, she’d say. Scooping up a handful of them, she would knock them roughly together. She’d clack the bowl of them against one another and say, “We make them strong.”

Is not this good?

Philippine painted egg Christmas ornaments

I don’t mean the painting itself, or even the artwork that it is to become. It isn’t the egg itself that portends anything. It is the act of making that is transformative. It is the hands that do the making, and the hearts that direct them.

Yes, it is simply a painted egg: a bit of pigment and enamel around an egg shell. But, it is also a thing once fragile, now made durable by someone’s act of making. It is a thing, once refuse made treasure. I look at this and I cannot help but call it good. Beautiful, yes. But, also, good.

Perhaps there is something fundamentally naive in believing that an act of creation is anything more than an act of craft.

But, I am coming to beleive, there is great power in that naïveté.