There remain a few questions unsettled in my mind. And amidst the confusion, I feel that I have persuaded myself that everything I have been working towards is for the betterment of the situation, everyone’s situation. I have managed to convince myself that the results will change not only matters, but people positively. I don’t know how much of that I actually believe. But I fear it’s too late to hit the brakes now. So I stand, indefatigable working towards uncertainty, desperately hoping it all works out according to plan, for how else will I stand without a plan to work on. But now I am faced with a series of what ifs. What if it isn’t in fact for the better? What if I find myself stranded in a stranger’s land without a lifeline to hold on to? What if this is the best it’s going to get? And what if it doesn’t pan out according to plan? And the overwhelming fear of change becomes us.
And we’d find ourselves right where we started, haunted by van Gogh’s words as we cowardly yield to our fears, ‘There is safety in the midst of danger. What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?’
Vincent van Gogh (March 1853 – July 1890) was greatly misunderstood throughout his life. His love for the beauty of life and what it offers, for life itself, may have been what caused him to openly welcome death when it presented itself to him. Life’s a whirlwind of ironies, and if we’re not prudent enough, we fall victims to our own ideologies. Van Gogh was a perfectionist that required no one’s approval but his own. But it frustrated him so how people couldn’t see the splendour life could offer, how they weren’t able to see what he saw. Life’s a cycle of difficulties and complications, and to be further ridiculed and misconstrued of our individuality would simply be unbearable. Though it is our unique individualities that help us contribute significantly to society, it is that, however, that can cause us to break.
The Starry Night (1889), a post-impressionism painting is one of the many paintings that has made van Gogh one of the greatest painters of all time. He painted it while he was recovering from his illness in the asylum Saint-Remy, having painted this piece from his memory. It was supposed to have been based on a constellation arrangement he had seen earlier in the night sky of Provence. From the contrasting bold colours to the consistency of the thick brushstrokes, the depth and profundity of the painting is further highlighted by the rich texture that encompass the painting. The surrealistic and serene mood that radiate from the painting help us to understand a little bit what van Gogh might have been feeling while he painted The Starry Night. The exaggerated use of contrast in the colours used in the painting allowed him to feel a sense of liberation in his art as he told Theo in a letter, that they were ‘more arbitrarily in order to express myself more forcibly’.
There are endless interpretations that people have theorised on The Starry Night, from religious views to psychological explanations and to van Gogh’s own desire to be cured from his mental illness, to avoid being a burden to his brother, Theo. Contrary to his earlier paintings, The Starry Night, evokes a more tranquil feel that many have interpreted as van Gogh almost recovering from his illness and depression. The centre point of the town is the tall steeple of the church, reigning largely over the smaller buildings. This steeple casts down a sense of stability onto the town creating a sense of size and seclusion. Perhaps, while on the road of recovery, van Gogh found a form of liberation to the instability of his thoughts but had only left him feeling even more alone and misunderstood.
It takes courage to be brilliant. Sometimes, we need to break all the rules of reality not to get noticed, but to be appreciated. And it takes an incredible amount of patience to find happiness. Life is an unbreakable sequence of pain after difficulty after abandonment. And it takes every fibre of our being to be optimistic, and though our pretences may fail us sometimes, we persistently struggle to get up every day in hope that that day would finally be the day the hurting would stop, that the world would at long last lift us up.
But therein lies the problem, it isn’t up to the world, life or anyone to lift us up. Sacrifices cannot be taken back. Life is unkind. People are ungrateful. To live in a world of hypocrisy where the face in front of you tells a different story behind your back is madness. When the good you do for others is perceived nothing less than unpleasant, that’s when you know it’s time to let go. Because sometimes, we are simply left with no choice but to walk away carrying nothing but that void of whom we leave behind.
“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.” – Vincent van Gogh