Wednesday’s discussion on sugar and sugar substitutes was really informative. Not only are you educated and strongly opinionated on your use of sugar and/or sugar substitutes but there are several of you who, like me, are still searching for a comfortable coexistence with the right sweetener. Thanks to all of you for bringing your opinions to the blog. It’s an important discussion and one that I’m sure will reappear sooner rather than later as I keep trying searching for foods that I can live with and feel good about eating.
I consider this a kind of hybrid of blogs, weaving topics of weight and maintenance with subjects of art, dogs and life. Since it’s Friday, and since I accomplished something big this week (I finished reading the biography of Vincent Van Gogh - all 950+ pages, aloud my employer) I thought I’d change gears and write about my favorite painter today not just for you, but for me as well, because my mind is packed high from corner to dusty corner with information that I need to release out into the open. If I don’t, I may never find my car keys again!
First, I should let you know that I’ve read many books to Mrs. P before, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Those books were enjoyable, but reading them out loud was no easy task. The author was Swedish and even though the books were translated, many words were incredibly frustrating to try and pronounce. Imagine how hard it is to constantly attempt the correct pronunciation of words like Aftonbladet or Dagens Nyheter while still trying to make the book sound interesting. Not an easy task. FYI, reading violent anal rape scenes to a 90+ year old woman can sometimes leave you feeling more uncomfortable than she. Sometimes I’d be interrupted during a particularly graphic depiction because she’d calmly want to know, ‘Now, how on earth would that even work?’ Don’t ask me what I ended up telling her. I’ve blocked it from my memory.
Ahem. Back to Van Gogh (yes, please let us get back to Van Gogh). This was by far, the most comprehensive, thorough book I’ve ever read about him. In fact, it took 2 forensic authors more than ten years to complete. They had access to more than 1,000 saved and archived letters that were written between Vincent and his family, many of which described what Vincent was feeling at the time he painted certain works of art. There were many urban legends laid to rest as well. Here are a few that you might find interesting.
Myth Number One: Vincent cut off his ear to show affection for a local prostitute and sent it to her as a gesture of love.
Truth: Vincent suffered from what was later diagnosed as temporal lobe epilepsy, which likely caused most of the anguish in life. He had several mental breakdowns which brought on tremors, loss of consciousness, severe depression, agitation and terror. When he cut off his ear it was because of a psychotic break triggered by an argument he had with Paul Gauguin. Gauguin threatened to leave the house they were sharing and Vincent wanted him to stay. He cut off part of his ear, wrapped it in paper and delivered it to a local brothel where Gauguin was known to visit and asked that the parcel be delivered to him.
Myth Number Two: Vincent’s last painting was entitled Wheat Field with Crows. It depicts a road with no end, symbolizing the end of Vincent’s own life, for which he was about to take.
Truth: This was not Vincent’s last painting. Wheat Field with Crows was completed a couple of weeks before Vincent’s death and symbolized his increasingly despondent mood after having had an argument with his only friend, his brother Theo. He completed several more paintings in the 2 week period that led to his death.
Myth Number Three: Vincent committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest.
Speculation. There is not much evidence that supports the claim that Vincent shot himself. The only controversy surrounding this book is that the authors firmly believe that Vincent did not shoot himself, but was shot by a young man named Rene. There are several pieces of evidence supporting this theory and it sounds entirely likely (to me, anyway) that this is how Vincent truly died. For a very well-done 2 part story that 60 Minutes did on this book and Vincent’s life, you can watch here.
What saddens me is that Vincent failed at every single thing he ever tried. He was ridiculed, rejected and humiliated by everyone he ever came into contact with, including his fellow painters. No one wanted to be friends with him. In fact, the only communication he ever received later in life was when ordering food during mealtime.
How could someone paint something as beautiful as this…
…also inscribe in a letter, “As a painter I will never amount to anything important. I am absolutely sure of it.”
While reading this book it was difficult to remain uplifted when here was a man who failed at practically everything he ever tried, but I think it’s important to see the beauty in his perseverance. He never gave up, despite humiliation and constant dead-ends. No matter what people said or did to him he was true to himself.
He wrote, “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
I intend on borrowing some of that passion and conviction and use it in my own life.
Have a great weekend, everyone. Persevere, no matter what.