“The permanence of turmoil…”

Excerpt from a letter of Vincent Van Gogh, 12 June 1890, to his mother:

“Dear Mother,

I was struck by what you say in your letter about having been to Nuenen. You saw everything again, “with gratitude that one was yours” – and are now able to leave it to others with an easy mind. AS THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY – so it has remained; life, the why or wherefore of parting, passing away, THE PERMANENCE OF TURMOIL – one grasps no more of it than that.

For me, life may well continue in solitude. I have never perceived those to whom I have been most attached other than as through a glas, darkly.” (…)

It’s a very sad, resigned letter, filled with the melancholia of the past and, maybe, also, with the presentiment of his not so far away departure… I think that somebody – I don’t know yet who – dit use the phrase “as through a glass, darkly” as a title of a book… I seem to remember…*

*It’s funny: the phrase is a citation from the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13, and was frecvently used before and – a lot – after Vincent Van Gogh (who is not even cited in the Wikipedia article… From Ingmar Bergman’s film of 1961 to Star Trek and Highlander tv series episodes…

Anyway, I was impressed by this letter (seemed the letter of a very old and wise man…) also because it struck a thrilling paralel with buddhism... which is kind of surprinsing for an ex-misionary (deeply marked by the Christianism even if, after Borinage and Nuenen, he became kind of a rebel believer – against the organized religion, against the Church but still a Christian)

Permanence of turmoil the life is suffering… not very far apart in meaning, eh? This could be very much one of the conclusions Vincent draw from life. Him and Bouddha, alike… and many, many others… Very similar to the general feeling and conclusion of Michelangelo’s sonets, for instance… Or the general climate of Shakespeare’s plays

I choose to illustrate this with a very colorful and optimist landscape (Vincent’s, of course…)

Le pont de Langlois - Van Gogh


13 responses to ““The permanence of turmoil…”

  1. Van Gogh is my favorite artist. I like your blog (and your art) very much, and have added you to my bookmarks.

  2. Vincent is my favourite, too (it shows, doesn’t it? I even took his first name and made it my middle name…) Thank you very much for your appreciation. It’s rare, you know?

  3. 100swallows

    Schopenhauer said that Hindu and Christian thinking had this in common: that they denied the will to live. In contrast to Greek thinking, which affirmed life.
    To exemplify this, he pointed to a Greek sarcophagus in a Florentine museum. It was decorated with sculpture showing the beautiful scenes of life, leading up to the wedding feast and the bridal bed. The Greeks consoled by promising the permanence of life, though the individual passed on. Life was good.

    Contrast this, he said, with the Christian coffin, draped in black, and with a crucifixon it—the signs of suffering and death. The Christians consoled by promising redemption and an escape from this Vale of Tears. Life here below is evil and in the hands of the Devil. Though Schopenhauer was an atheist, he approved the Christian teaching because he had decided that the world was miswrought.
    (He remembered to except Plato when he spoke of “the Greeks” because, of course, Socrates also longs for a better world.)

  4. There are, no doubt, some similarities between Hindu and Christian thinking and contrasts with the Greeks view of life (which maybe affirmed life but it’s non the less quite cruel sometimes…)

    Romanian’s national poet, Mihai Eminescu (a romantic who died like Holderin, mad as a matter because of a luetic infection…) was very much influenced by Schopenhauer. I’ve read some about him and excerpts from his works but I didn’t have the occasion to read him in original yet… may be never, time being what it is… And don’t we all “long for a better world”?

  5. I have been wondering whether you could change that “fishing in the waters between religion…”. I finally took out that subtitle.

    I am interested only and exclusively in religion, but to say so is not clever in any way, especially after what I have seen of the USA religion scene. Incredible. Grrrrrr. I learnt this idiom only some 20 hours ago and now mean to try it out, see.

    So let’s just call it Fishing. Somebody put me on his webpage of Fishing in Alaska. That is misleading. A little far off. But so is fishing BETWEEN the waters, because that is where there ain´t no fish.

  6. You are probably right… do you heard something about a site called Babel something which translates texts?

  7. 100swallows

    We all might long for a better life but we all don’t believe in one as Socrates did. In jail while he was waiting to be executed, he told his “disciples” that not only was he calm in the face of death but happy to be finally on his way to the other world where he was sure he would learn the truth of things, and no longer see them “as through a glass, darkly”.

  8. I am not so sure about “all”, G! What I think we “all” do is : try to sell to ourselves a better alternative that that of the black nothingness we “all” are afraid of… Some succed, some not… My father – who will have 80 next year – I hope to visit my parents then – is convinced that God is listening to him and if he prais very hard is always given him what he asks for (even if it’s some more money to repair the roof, for instance…) My mother, who’s 82, doesn’t really speaks about all this but I’m more like her, a bit nonconformist: organized religion did not succed yet to “sell” me their ideas… And wasn’t socrate who said: “All I know is that I don’t lnow nothing…?”

  9. “know” nothing, of course…

  10. 100swallows

    Hey, Danu, the “WE ALL long for a better life” is quoted from you! See your post above. I should have put it in quotes. It was in fact what made me write the following one about Socrates. The writer of FISHING–what’s his name?…Cantueso.. even called him (after Nietzsche, I suppose) a suicide because he let himself be unjustly executed. It was as though Socrates was looking for a good pretext to get the hell out of this world. He was so curious to know the Truth which he was sure he’d see as soon as he drank the hemlock.

  11. That’s funny (and bizarre)! I forget about my own comments…Must be Alzheimer…

    More than that, I let a few minutes before a comment to cantuesa,s post with Socrates suicide saying about the same thing you said above…

  12. ovidiu stanomir

    Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Luchian…

    ce talente! ce soarta!

    omenirea e ingrata> isi pretuieste valorile de-abia dupa ce acestora laudele si gloria nu le mai sunt de nici un folos; caci foloasele, de cind lumea, le trag negustorii si “laudacii” de profesie;

    deh, “unii cu ponoasele, altii cu foloasele”…

  13. N-am nici o îndoiala ca e asa cum spui, Ovidiu!

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