Selene and Endymion by Nicolas Poussin. Courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

My favorite painting in the DIA is Nicolas Poussin’s Selene and Endymion. The Greek myth is quite sad, but the painting is beautiful. The premise of the myth is that the Moon Goddess, Selene is in love with the mortal, Endymion. Zeus offers to allow Endymion eternal youth and immortality to stay with Selene—under the condition that he sleeps for all eternity.

Pretty messed up. But, then, the Greeks are known for their tragedies.

The painting is gorgeous. It specifically shows Selene waiting for Endymion to make the decision of whether love and immortality is worth eternal unconsciousness. If you have the opportunity to see it at the DIA, there is an excellent breakdown of all of the hints Poussin hides in the painting to show how the myth ends. However, I won’t spoil all of the amazing work done by the curators of the DIA to describe the painting—my summary won’t be nearly as good, and you should definitely go see it in person.

But I will tell you what I love about this painting. I love the ancient idea that the universe operates as a giant stage. Gods pulling set-piece suns and raising curtains is the exact sort of theatrical, metaphorical mindset that keeps going when the grind gets tough.

There are hundreds of examples (some better than others) in literature, art, and theatre that describe life as a play and the world as our stage. This metaphor just appeals to the theatre kid (and working theatre professional adult) in me.

What does this all have to do with being a Challenge Detroit Fellow? Aside from promoting the cultural gemstone that is the DIA, this is a long way of introducing my favorite pillar of the program: Play.