Lust for Life

July 28, 2009 Leave a comment

I recently finished reading “Lust for Life” by Irving Stone, and it really stirred my soul!  The historical novel about the life of Vincent Van Gogh is one of those big books that invite you deep into the artistic psyche.  I became overwhelmed by Vincent’s struggle, his compulsive drive, personal sacrifice and willingness to let go of so many conventions.  But it’s not until we are three quarters into the book and six years into Vincent’s quest that we come to what is one of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever read.

Vincent finally makes it to Paris and he sees the impressionists for the first time.  The scene is one of total awe, the beauty is like nothing he had ever seen before, like nothing he imagined, these were paintings that broke every rule, 300 hundred years of tradition suddenly gone bright with light and color, it was something absolutely beautiful and new.  Vincent had worked day and night on his art, he had gone hungry for his art, he had been rejected by artists and non-artists alike, and suddenly here he was, for the first time seeing his burning desires manifest before him, he was awed, he was emboldened and he was inspired.

I found many lessons for us in this book, and by “us” I mean the people who have worked so hard and for so long at making the world more beautiful, making it a better place for more of us.  We are pioneers of social change and like the artist who seeks to create we should think of ourselves in these same radical terms.  How much brighter can things be?  What conventions need to break?  What is it that we need in order to imagine something new, the likes of which has never been seen?  How daring can we be with our hopes and aspirations?  How hard do we need to work at the job of imagination?

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  • Linda says:

    I love this Gibràn. And wonder, as well, what conventions do we live with that we take for granted, don’t even notice? And what would happen if we broke through THOSE?

  • Curtis says:

    I love this too. To me it all comes down to being bold, to remembering that we live in the boxes we created. While objectively there may not be an inside and an outside, we have certainly done a good job of convincing ourselves that there is such a duality. Just being aware of that can be a powerful launching pad for possibility.

  • Federico says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. It is not until we question our own presuppositions that we begin to live and learn.

  • Andy Atkins says:

    A couple of years ago, Dan Pink wrote an article in Wired about two contrasting trajectories artists’ careers tend to take. Conceptualists make an early splash in redefining their field (think Picasso or Mozart). Experimentalists develop more slowly and make their major contributions later (think Cezanne or Beethoven). Van Gogh was an experimentalist whose contributions were transcendent, fundamental, and achieved later in life. We do ourselves a disservice when we think too narrowly about the nature of genius and miss the significant contributions people can make at all stages of their careers.

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