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Vincent van Gogh. Thursday July 25, 2013

Given that Vincent van Gogh suffered so much with his own mental and emotional well-being and that the anniversary of his death looms, (July 29 1890) it seems only right to dedicate a Moodscope post to this great artist.

Vincent, a prolific letter writer, who expressed himself beautifully, wrote to his beloved brother, Theo, just two months before he died. The letter was never sent but in part, said:

'I feel a failure. That's about it as regards me. I feel that that's the fate I'm accepting and which won't change anymore.'

Listening to those words on the audio tour, at the spectacular Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, whilst gazing at his final paintings, moved my heart to tears. I wonder who of us have not thought or uttered those very same words at some point? Who of us have not crawled into bed and prayed that we don't wake up? Or worse.

What was so touching about Vincent's thoughts, his low self-worth, was that literally, just a few months previous to Van Gogh's suicide, he'd painted a beauteous painting for his new born nephew. The exquisite and soothing almond blossom against a blue sky being an apt choice to mark the beginning of a new life. Just one example showing that even despite his own mental anguish and emotional pain, Van Gogh was thinking of others.

As Don McLean's moving tribute song to Van Gogh says, we too maybe feeling like there is 'no hope left inside.' We may feel we don't fit cleanly into the jigsaw around us.

Van Gogh felt a failure and yet his qualities, the overall goodness of his heart, his appreciation of beauty and his efforts to keep trying, make the moving lyrics of that same song stand out anew:

'This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.'

I think that maybe said for a great many of you too.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Bill Andrews Thu, Jul 25th 2013 @ 8:19am

Perhaps if Vincent had access to Moodscope so he could monitor his mood fluctuations he may have been able to retain his creativity but lessen his pain. Maybe he could have identified triggers that seem to set off his depressions so that he could head them off or reduce their intensity. Maybe he would have been able to see that his moods are not HIM, that he is separate to the rising and falling of his energy. Maybe he could have recognised many things he could choose to do or not do that might have reduced his pain. Maybe there might have been some medications that have since been discovered that could have helped him. Maybe he might have, as many artistic critics have claimed, been a great artist anyway without such incredible suffering and torture and maybe his genius had nothing to do with his anguish but was instead hindered by it. Maybe, finally, he could have had a sense of hope sown so that he indeed could see the world was meant for someone as beautiful as him.

DrPaprika Thu, Jul 25th 2013 @ 8:46am

I remember rushing out to buy 'Vincent' by Don McLean, and saw him perform it live in Birmingham Town Hall a year later. However, the final line always stuck in my craw somehow. The idea that Van Gogh was 'too beautiful' for this world reminds me of Christians who are 'so heavenly-minded they are no earthly use' as my father used to say. We are not 'just visiting' this planet, and our world is what we make of it, together with the whole of humanity and the whole of creation. Inner conflict may well be creative for artists, as for all of us, but we don't need to torture ourselves to create things of beauty. The earth has already been redeemed and we can enjoy and interpret its beauty. On a lighter note, I once heard someone comment that Vincent may have 'suffered for his Senna Tea'(a play on McLean's accent), but he didn't need to suffer for his art. Andrew

Anonymous Thu, Jul 25th 2013 @ 9:11am

A post that brought tears to my eyes. Not unhappy ones though, just recognition and awareness that we all share the feelings, as you say - and now we're fortunate to be more informed and have the tools to help ourselves.

Anonymous Thu, Jul 25th 2013 @ 9:14am

I appreciate the sentiments underlying today's post but not the effect. There is a place in the world for all of us. 'Don't let yourself go ...', as the REM song says.
Here's a poem by Mary Oliver:

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Mary Oliver, 'Wild Geese' in STAYING ALIVE: Real Poems for Unreal Times,' Neil Astley (ed) Bloodaxe.

And here's an excerpt from a Brendan Kenelly poem in the same book:


Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window
Begin again to the roaring traffic [...]
determination and exaltation flowering the way to work. [...]
Though we live in world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.

With love and best wishes.

Anonymous Thu, Jul 25th 2013 @ 9:26am

By the way, let's not allow anniversaries, such as Van Gogh's death 'loom' over us. Let's just acknowledge them, watch them pass, and observe that Van Gogh's life path was/is not our own.

Love and best wishes.

Anonymous Thu, Jul 25th 2013 @ 1:35pm

'm not as poetic as the other replys but wot a beautiful blog an one I can relate to. You are a wonderful writer and an even more wonderful person if only you could see yourself as others do. The world as small as it may seem is more beautiful coz your in it!

Suzy Thu, Jul 25th 2013 @ 6:26pm

Oh dear folks. I feel I've been woefully misunderstood in today's post. My heartfelt apologies for any confusion caused.

It was merely that I had the good fortune be able to visit the Van Gogh museum last week and felt moved by the whole experience. It was beautiful. I wanted to write a post that celebrated the artist's good qualities by way of a reminder for us to remember our worth. Something which, I personally, often do battle with.

Once again, I'm so sorry for any misunderstanding.

Julia Thu, Jul 25th 2013 @ 8:45pm

Suzy. I think your blog said just what you wanted to. Or came across as you wanted it to. You needn't be sorry!

Anonymous Thu, Jul 25th 2013 @ 9:17pm

I visited the Van Gogh Museum in September of last year and was caught completely off guard by a crying jag that went on for several minutes after finishing the tour. I knew I couldn't be the only person who felt so profoundly affected. Thanks, Suzy.

Anonymous Thu, Jul 25th 2013 @ 11:57pm

Thanks for the post :-) I have always felt like a failure due to having depression and my family's reaction to it that it was a weakness and something I should pull myself out of

Anonymous Fri, Jul 26th 2013 @ 8:00am

Great post Suzy. Many thanks. It was clear and rang a bell. I even relistened to Don McLean's lovely song. And much enjoyed.

Julia Fri, Jul 26th 2013 @ 8:02am

You make me want to visit it. I need a good cry!

Anonymous Fri, Jul 26th 2013 @ 11:17am

I knew this post was from you Suzy before i got to the bottom and saw you name, it is beautiful, I really understood what you were saying, thank you!

Nancy Martinez A- Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 6:29pm

Suzy, thank you for your words! Could you post them in our Van goghs group in FB please?

Suzy Wed, Jul 31st 2013 @ 10:43pm

Hey Nancy, it would be my pleasure to. I'm just not sure how?? If you tell me I surely will ;o)

I'm not so familiar with face-book etc.

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