Excerpt from a letter of Vincent Van Gogh, 12 June 1890, to his 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…)