Vincent van Gogh was definitely a tormented soul. Why? Based on my reading of a collection of his letters in Vincent by himself, edited by Bruce Bernard (all quotes from this book), he was engaged in that classic struggle of ego and heart. When someone is so talented and can see as he did, it becomes an even more intense internal conflict when that core Self is suppressed by the ego in response to a critical, judgmental world, especially when that world includes family and society.
I thought of Vincent after receiving occasional messages from people telling me that they are going through a difficult time. I am so grateful that they are open with me, and I will always encourage them to do that which I know is best and most effective but is the most challenging: ask the questions that they need to ask and find the answers to those questions from their own hearts. I have to do the same. While the words or works of others help me and I gratefully receive them, the power and source of change, resolution, or revolution emanates from within me.
Those who truly care for others will help lead them in the paths of self-discovery. Others, though, with pretense and superficiality, seem to believe that pointing out the shortcomings of humankind is the answer, devastating the nobility, power, and light within people. It seems like lately I have heard more of this than I have for quite awhile. We have such wonderful power and resources; our own hearts speak to us, and the heart is in touch with the Spirit of all.
I cannot stomach the self-righteous, incompetent whiny-ass pleas of those who try to convince others who are struggling that humans are helpless, filthy, and worthless apart from outside intervention. Maybe I feel strongly about this because I was in that camp many long years ago — a past life.
Now, I know what I was working towards: we are powerful co-creators with an ego that creates problems, and we sometimes need to be reminded of our power and act according to the heart. When the “religious” ones denigrate us to the point of guilt, confusion, and depression, it suppresses the voice of our heart and the expression of our life purpose.
We need to find that self-identity in order to live our purpose and truth. That lifts us from whatever challenges and struggles we may be facing. March onward and upward in light and love. Guilt and fear are harmful — negative emotions used by the ego and those who prey on egos. We do not have to listen to the ego and conform to the expectations or standards of anyone else. We will not destroy or harm if we listen to our hearts, live our purpose, and thereby show our loving core Self to the world.
Let’s get back to Vincent. He was greatly influenced by “religion” and egoically sought to please others, so much so — and this happens frequently — that he believed that it was what he wanted. In one letter, he laments “…if we could make ourselves a crown of the thorns of life, wearing it before men and so that God may see us wearing it, we should do well” (30). Why would we desire to draw suffering and wear it as some trophy to prove how worthless we are to hope for some better future?
But Vincent’s heart, I believe, would not let that great talent rest. Shortly after he penned those words, he wrote, “One sometimes gets the feeling, Where am I? What am I doing? Where am I going? and one’s brain reels. But then a well-known voice…makes one feel firm ground under one’s feet again” (31). He had been brought back to an unexpressed core Self, a life of struggling misdirection that tormented his soul, and his heart kept asking the questions.
Vincent, though, knew that he needed to be working as an artist, even though his ego and “well-meaning people” thought being a minister or other work was acceptable. The fact that he didn’t put his ego to rest caused ongoing problems for him: “Though every day difficulties crop up and new ones will present themselves, I cannot tell you how happy I am to have taken up drawing again. I had been thinking of it for a long time, but I always considered the thing impossible and beyond my reach” (34). Impossible only exists when we let it.
Perhaps tomorrow I will share a few of Vincent’s quotes about the expressions of his heart, but ultimately, he never rose to the triumph of living his heart and life purpose without apologies. However, his understanding of what was deep within created some of the most magnificent, encouraging, awe-inspiring expressions of the Universe ever put to canvas. I can spend hours just staring at Vincent’s paintings of all the spirit, textures, and energies of life, of the Universe, in every stroke of his knife or brush. His heart knew.
And so do ours. When we struggle, then, or face challenges, where should we turn? Oh, it’s not easy. You might not ask enough or listen long enough or get silent long enough. Sometimes we think we speak to our heart, but the volume of our ego is up so loud it’s like trying to entertain guests with the television blaring. And if we need the help of others, as we sometimes do, turn to someone who will help us discover our core self, direct us to our own hearts and our own truth.
“I feel…that there is a power within me, and I do what I can to bring it out and free it” (40).
Yes, Vincent, we all have that power. Let’s all work to “bring it out and free it.” That is knowing our hearts; that is living our purpose.
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!