Rev. Sudha Mehta©
Many years ago in India visiting my sister in Kolkata, I asked my sister to go with me to an art show. I had a desire to bring home to the US a painting from an Indian Bengali artist. I think Bengal has some of the finest artists. The Bengali people in general, in my opinion, have an artist’s soul. Music, drama, poetry, writing as well as painting is in their soul.
Attached to this artistic deep feeling soul is a certain angst I find, the pull and tug between hope and hopelessness. The artist lives and experiences a depth in every day life that is not known to many, his/her sensory world can often range between extremes. It becomes the artist’s choice to choose between joy and melancholy, hope and hopelessness . . . the angst experienced within is often revealed in the art you see.
So, my sister and I went. Walking through the gallery of abstracts exhibit, I came upon a painting that drew me. It was lovely. the rich fall colors would go perfectly with my decor in my living room. It was a painting of a tree lined path as in the picture you see above. The trees were in the middle of shedding leaves so the path was also covered with lovely colorful leaves. The sky above was beautiful and sunny with nary a cloud. It was like the artist had captured where I lived in Connecticut.
Now I understand art is subjective. I also know that I am truly no art expert. I have no knowledge of paintings at all. All I wanted was a pretty picture for my living room. This one would fit the bill nicely, However, before purchasing it, I decided to ask the artist what he saw in the painting. I wanted to know his inspiration.
Well, he saw something vastly different. He said the picture depicted the world as a garbage dump. and what I saw as softly falling leaves he saw as garbage flowing onto an already large amount of rubbish.
I am not kidding!
Well, I thought about it, what I saw was based on my life in Connecticut where tree lined streets and beautiful fall leaves coloring the landscape on sunny Autumn days were common. The artist on the other hand lived in the city of Kolkata, so his point of reference may have been some of the streets he walked. He could not be further away from my concept. he lived in a city that at the time fit his point of view far more than it fit mine.
Please understand Kolkata is also a city of many colors, There are places that are wonderful. I remember growing up there and seeing the many wonderful sights, and visiting the Botanical Gardens, picnicing at the Victoria Memorial, boat rides in the river, trips to Diamond Harbor and so much more. All the wonderful pictures of my childhood are filled with happy memories of Kolkata. We siblings still reminisce about our years there, and my sister has continued her happy life and has raised her family in Kolkata.
This is simply the question of perspective.
My perspective can be seen in the above picture, whereas it is possible his perspective came from scenes like the one below.
There are many other pictures like this you can pull up on the internet, I didn’t take this, however, I have seen things like this in my visits, and my heart has been broken for the people as well as the animals that have to endure.
Perhaps if you saw something like this and were brokenhearted for the condition of humanity and animal-kind, your abstract painting might look like this artist’s did.
Knowing his inspiration and perception, I couldn’t un-see that in the painting. So, the painting stayed on display, and I moved on. Perhaps he caught on to my disappointment. I pointed to another picture. It was an abstract also like the first one. The colors were not those that really belonged in my home, non-the-less, I asked him about his inspiration to this one. “Snow capped Himalayan mountains” he said. “Sold” I said! I didn’t want to know if the truth in this case was different!!
Ps. 31:24 Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.
Philippians 4: 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things. 9 Whatever you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, put these things into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Paul did not say this lightly. Paul himself wrote this letter to the Philippians while he was in prison. Let that sink in! . . . he was in prison, In custody, in chains, in a dank, dark cell compared to which the US prisons today may be the Sheraton, when he wrote the above verse. Read it again and get some perspective on your own suffering!
Paul says in effect if you think like him, and follow his example, the God of peace will be with you. I don’t think it does scripture injustice if I say the peace of God will be with you as well!
It is easy to give in to pessimism when you are confronted with difficulties everyday. What you are surrounded with may look terrible, but hope in God is a choice you make. Attitude doesn’t have to be governed by circumstances. Is it hard . . .? Yes! Whoever said life was always a breeze?! But Jesus the Life-Giver did not leave us as Orphans:
John 14: 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Lam. 3: 24 The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. 25 The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. 26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
Again, my perspective: Connecticut, living right close to the State Park, untouched Nature in my backyard, tall trees, sunny skies, changing seasons.
The artist’s Perspective: The streets of some parts of Kolkata. Hardships of life, People hurting, animals suffering.
Remember Life is choices. You draw from everyday, your experiences color your life, your senses experience and you paint your life!
Remember also, Life is Choices!
How will you color of life?! Will you choose to let your prison, your surroundings, your circumstances imprison your soul as well, or will you live free even as Paul did even while in prison?
Your Decision . . . .