Saturday, July 3, 2010

For a Moment

It can be hard to pursue your passion in obscurity, with little to no support. Take Vincent Van Gogh. His talent was little appreciated during his lifetime by those around him (save for a few, such as his brother Theo). Couple that with serious bouts of anxiety, depression, and mental illness and you may have met a man in 1888's Arles, France who would have happily sold a painting if only in exchange for a drink.

What would it have been like for Van Gogh to have seen the impact his work ultimately had on the art world, to see the place he would have in history, especially in regards to the work he did in the last few years of his life?

This was a 'what if' scenario brilliantly played out on last week's episode of the British sci-fi program Doctor Who titled "Vincent and the Doctor". The Doctor, a time-and-space travelling alien from the planet of Gallifrey, travels in his ship -- the TARDIS -- righting what wrongs he can and often saving Earth from numerous alien invasions and evil plots (usually from London, England). In last week's episode, he and his travelling companion Amy Pond (not an alien) go to 1888 Arles, France, to help Vincent Van Gogh battle an alien creature that only the tortured painter can see. And at the end, the Doctor decides to take Van Gogh -- an artist both he and Amy have been thrilled to meet -- on a little trip.

It's a moment that Van Gogh felt would change everything, even as he noted (with some embarrassment) upon the trio's return to 1888 Arles that his painting of some haystacks had made it into the museum. But as Amy and the Doctor discovered, his life still ended at the age of 37. Amy felt they had made no impact on the man's life. But as the Doctor noted, they did make some changes as discovered via a lovely little shout-out to Ms. Pond (who Vincent was rather fond of in a very sweet way) via Van Gogh's very well-known painting of a vase of sunflowers.

So don't underestimate the power of a word of encouragement, a comforting hug, or even a smile. You may not ultimately help alter the course of a person's life. But sometimes all they -- all we, really -- need is to know what we're doing matters. That we matter.

If only for a moment.

1 comment:

Essay said...

Of all the weirdness...I actually saw this Dr. Who episode from start to finish (which NEVER happens), and really enjoyed it. It was so thought provoking despite the way it played fast and loose with history (which of course is practically the whole point of Dr. Who!) The idea that Van Gogh's pain was necessary to his art, that through such suffering comes great art. What if he could have known how his art would eventually be received?

We might wish an artist like Van Gogh could have known peace...but then perhaps he would never have painted at all. Like I said, a thought provoking episode. Once I got past the fact that nobody batted an eye at Amy's above-the knee skirt, of course.