A Dunce and her Seven Devils
oil on panel
The dunce cap carries an iconographic visual of the naughty kid in the corner of the classroom, being ostracized for misbehavior. He may be the class clown, he may have received poor marks on his homework - either way he's wearing the consequences bright and tall for everyone to see. I identify with the dunce cap wearer in my moments of feeling like a failure. It's for when I get a super self-depreciating case of the not-enoughses. Like when I feel I am not organized enough, I don't work hard enough, I'm not smart enough, I'm not vegan enough, I'm not trim enough, I'm not nurturing enough, I'm not kind enough, I'm not blah blah blah....
In twelfth century Scotland there was a very influential philosopher-theologian named John Duns Scotus. He taught at Oxford University and had a practice of constructing a paper cone to place on the head of the poorest academic student to stimulate his brain, like a "thinking cap" funneling light and energy into his mind. There were periods in history when some theologians disagreed with his ideas and would call one "dunce" as an insult to their intelligence, and so the dunce cap took on a negative connotation.
What we may see as a punishing, humiliating disgrace was actually intended to be a tool for our betterment. Like using our weaknesses for self-improvement, to learn and grow. And beyond that, to develop compassion and humility. What a wonderful idea to look at our faults as potential, a positive tweak on perception.
Mary is wearing her dunce cap and has seven devils tangled in her hair. The question I propose is: Where does our self-doubt and our feelings of not-enoughses come from? And what will you do about it?