When I first met my late husband, he was reading Van Gogh’s letters to his brother. He said he was rereading the book, and wanted me to read it too. Being an artist himself, Van Gogh was one of his all time favorites. Throughout all the years we spent together he would always read from that book again and again.
The first time I read the book, I was in awe. The great painter that he was, Van Gogh had a terribly hard life. And yet I could feel through his letters kind of journaling his everyday life that it was one of the greatest lives that was ever lived- and perhaps the happiest. It was a life of loneliness, of starvation and poverty that led to insanity, and yet it was the happiest. And the few words he had written in his letters have changed my whole life.
In a way I understood why my husband kept rereading his letters. See my late husband was this simple man who was very grounded, very appreciative of life and everything around him. He had such an observant eye for the simple things in life. He loved art for art’s sake, he loved to create, he was the happiest when he was painting.
On a train trip to Toronto last week, I tried to be fully aware of the beauty surrounding me. And never, never had nature seemed to me so touching and so full of feeling. There are moments in life when everything within us is full of peace and sentiment but it is not so always.
Van Gogh’s simple drive is in all of us. But in us it is foggy with worries, like will the work be good or bad, or will it make money?
On that day in the train, I became only aware of the beauty of the creation around me.
And I had this impulse to share with others the feeling that I had. I thought to myself that in a few years I must finish a certain book that I am writing. And that I need not hurry- there is no good in that- but I must work on it in full calmness and serenity, as regularly and briefly and as focused as possible.
“When I learned all this then I could write freely and jovially and not feel contracted and guilty about being such a conceited ass; and not feel driven to work by grim resolution, by jaw-grinding ambition to succeed, like some of those success-driven business men who, in their concern with action and egoistic striving, forget all about love and the imagination, and become sooner or later emotionally arthritic and spiritually as calcified and uncreative as mummies.” Brenda Ueland