In November 2017 Belgian performance artist Mikes Poppe attached himself to a chain buried deep inside an enormous block of marble and set about chiselling himself free. For Poppe the block represented the ‘burden of history from which artists cannot escape.’ But after 19 days of eating, sleeping, drawing and chiselling he had to admit defeat and call in an angle grinder to cut his chain and set him free. He had discovered that sometimes it is much harder to escape from things than we might imagine.
It’s a classic tale of art imitating life and reminds us that it’s not just the burden of history from which we might want to be set free, but also the burden of our selfish patterns of behaviour that we cannot break, and which cause so much harm to ourselves and those around us. So often we struggle to be free from the addictions that bring us down but fail at every attempt.
In the Bible the Apostle Paul wrestled with exactly this issue and at one point writes in despair, ‘What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’ His despair is short-lived, however, as he already knows and immediately provides the answer, ‘Thanks be to God – Jesus Christ our Lord!’