Last week I watched a show where time travellers met Vincent Van Gogh about a year prior to his suicide.
Major plotlines aside, they spend time literally bumping into wet canvases all over his flat, while listening to Vincent muttering how his art was rubbish and trying to assure him that it really is excellent art....not that Vincent puts any stock into what they say.
I am not sure what Vincent thought of his art in real life....for a man so emotionally up-and-down, the world still doesn't really know a lot about what he felt. Was he suffering from mental illness? Was it something physical like metal poisoning from the paints he used or alcoholic poisoning from the Absinthe he drank? No one really knows.
I admit I've enjoyed a lot of Vincent's work (I am not a huge fan of it all, since some of it is very dark and sombre, but I love his brighter periods). I have avoided watching a movie that my mother has suggested to me time and again "Vincent and Theo"....mostly because I can't muster up the enthusiasm to watch something so incredibly depressing. Mom has told me several times how hard it is in the opening scene as one of his paintings auctions off for millions of dollars, and then the scene cuts to one of Van Gogh living in poverty as his paintings fail to sell.
As I said....depressing.
Watching this program though had me wondering, would we change our self destructive thinking if we had our own personal cheerleaders in our corner....telling us how marvelous we really are if we could just see it.
In this show the time travellers take Vincent into their time machine and tell him that "as a treat" they are going to show him something really special. They zip to modern times to a museum in Paris and drag Vincent past masterpiece after masterpiece as they urge him to hurry up and see this one particularly busy exhibit.
Vincent stands in amazement as he finds himself in a wing of the museum filled with nothing but his works of art.
One of our intrepid time travellers turns to the museum curator and asks him to answer truthfully, where does he think Vincent stands in the rank of artists. Our curator pauses for a moment and then launches into how Van Gogh leaves all other artists behind. He speaks of the awe he feels for a man who can look beyond the pain and grief of his own life and still paint the beauty of the world around him. "Anyone can paint pain" the curator states. "It is the greater man who can see through all of that and still paint the joys that can be found in life." (okay, its a paraphrase, but you get the point).
By this point Vincent is in tears as he listens to this total stranger's glowing assessment of Vincent's place in life. To be honest, I was in tears as well.
Renewed, Vincent vows to soldier on and to not let his demons get the better of him again.
Our time travellers take Vincent back home and then rush back to modern times to see all of the new art that came from Vincent's new, extended lease on life. Sadly, there is none. Vincent still commits suicide and the world moves on without him.
So what is the point of this? I am not entirely sure. Ever since I saw this last weekend its been zipping around in my brain and not really leaving me be.
I used to think how wonderful it would be if I could just go back in time and tell the sad child I once was that everything is going to be okay. Things will work themselves out. Life isn't as bad as you think it is...but would I have even listened? Would I still be the person that I am today (the good, the bad and the ugly) if I hadn't made the journey that I did? Would I still look at the world around me and see so much beauty if I hadn't gone through so much pain and darkness?
Self doubt is a demon that only we can kill; no one can do it for us. As wonderful as it would be to have a knight in shining armor come along and slay our dragons for us; we have to be willing to pick that sword up and fight for ourselves. I may do battle often with my demons, but there are days when the clouds part and the sun shines all the more brilliantly because I have chosen to defend my little place in this world.