It must’ve been senior year in college, when we visited a friend at a decaying rental house.
He had a giant room that suggested lost elegance with its crown molding and ornate doors.
It was a blurry night, if you know what I mean. Nobody was in his right mind.
For a reason I’ll never understand, my friend slurped paint into his mouth and spat it against the door. I remember the spray, and the red paint dripping down his maniacal chin.
It struck me as horribly wrong. I didn’t care about the property owner. My friend’s actions were an offense against the timeworn spirit of the place.
I responded by retreating inside myself, a regular habit in those days. The antics carried on without me. I got up and walked around until I came to a calendar on the wall that featured Vincent van Gogh’s painting, “Starry Night.”
I studied the swirling night sky and the sleepy town below. I stood there long enough to see the clouds move and sense the twinkling of stars. To this day, my memory tells me images drifted and shifted ever so slightly, in a way I suspect van Gogh had intended.
Thus began my man-crush on van Gogh, the Dutch artist who was willing to pay whatever price greatness demanded.
• “I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.” – Vincent van Gogh.
Books about the man were bought and consumed. Prints were purchased, framed and placed on the wall.
I used to walk by his self-portrait only to back up and study it for a few seconds or minutes before continuing on my way.
• “It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.” – Vincent van Gogh.
That self-portrait with Vincent sitting straight and proud against a mostly blue background served as a challenge. He stared at me through the years and said, “What kind of stuff are you made of?”
Perhaps if I’d focused only on the paintings and knew nothing of his life, I might’ve made different choices.
But I knew his path led to despair and a self-inflicted gunshot. My psychological bent and family history suggested it would be wise to stick to the lighter side of life, if possible.
• “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” – Vincent van Gogh.
Those prints still hang at my house. I get lost in them, feel the challenge again and wonder if I’ve built up enough reserves to carry me through a truly grand attempt.
Could the middle-aged man pick up a gauntlet that the young man refused?
• “I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.” – Vincent van Gogh.
M. SCOTT MORRIS is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal