Over the past few weeks I have been reading a lot about Vincent van Gogh and my appreciation for the man and the artist has grown.
Like many artists, van Gogh is an interesting character with a lot of texture. What has drawn me to learning more about him is the question of someone being passionate vs. crazy.
All I remember as a child is the story of him being the one who cut off his ear. I remember a large book that my mother had just on van Gogh. At that time I didn’t like the painting on the front of the book. It was one of his self portraits and it scared me. This was the crazy artist. I wondered if all artists weren’t a bit crazy! Time and time again over the years I heard others refer to van Gogh in the same manner – crazy. I agreed after all he cut off his ear! Perhaps even then this resonated with me…and led me to question my own sanity because at the heart I too was an artist…and knew it!
Taking a closer look at the man what I am seeing so far is that he was a human being that had a gift and desire to learn. He was a passionate seeker. A man that seemed to be looking for voice and connection. Spiritually drawn and perhaps religiously confused, he seemed to immerse himself in experience in an effort to sort out his calling. The book speaks about his identification with the apostle Paul’s years in Arabia. It indicates that van Gogh resonated with the apostle’s journey. And felt that were he to have an experience of that kind that he too would have something to say that would “indeed be worth listening to.”
So, as a passionate seeker and a man on a journey sometimes in battle with his own mind and thought van Gogh discovered his art and gift. His voice. Is that crazy? Is that passion? I can grapple with this myself and frequently do. How many of us really sort through our own “muck” to discover our voices? How much courage does that ultimately take? How often do we avoid the callings of our heart because on some level we “think” it’s crazy. We think no one will understand or want to know that part of ourselves.
I don’t have an answer to these questions. What I have is my own journey and a new appreciation for a “fellow traveler”. I resonate with van Gogh, his struggles for answers and voice. I do think that he had tremendous courage to follow his heart even when others felt he was on the wrong path or “crazy”. I can take a look at the outcome and know there’s nothing crazy about it…it’s genius! We all have that potential we just don’t always have the faith to pursue it because sometimes it means standing on our own without the admiration and encouragement of the “masses”.
In my limited research on van Gogh I came across an article that presents another “story” surrounding van Gogh’s loss of an ear that is less dramatic. Regardless, the man left a legacy from which to learn. He was an inspired artist who’s gifts live on for those who are interested in appreciating and learning from. That for me is the outcome of passion and there’s nothing crazy about it!