Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 273
December 8, 1997

Reflections on Starry Night


I was incredibly envious. Words effortlessly and smoothly flowed from his mouth, and in full complete sentences. A theological student preaching at a small rural church, he would prepare his sermons during the fifty-minute Sunday morning drive. As I struggled to add word to word in some semblance of coherency, his ability both fascinated me and frustrated me. Shakespeare well expressed my plight:

Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope.
With what I most enjoy contented least.

Before becoming too mired in despondency, I chanced upon the Psalmist who also confessed to "almost stumbling and falling" with jealously. He was saved by "seeing their end." It caused me to look more carefully at my classmate, and I saw his gift leading to an effortless glibness, keeping him from further developing his obvious talents. I could picture him in thirty years still saying much the same things, still in a smooth impeccable manner.

As a result, seldom am I envious of others. The troubles and struggles of others seldom make their gifts and benefits worth having.

Seldom, but not totally. Each time I see Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night I envy his ability to scrub my eyeballs and make the world come alive in a new way. I can no longer look at the clear night sky as pinpoints of cold light. Rather, the night sky is a swirl of color vibrant with life. (Sorely tested would be my honesty if alone in a room with Starry Night and a clear avenue of escape.)

I could wish that I had the ability with words that van Gogh had with brush and paint-to bring to eyes and minds the total freshness of the tired tried-and-true so that once again its many facets glittered, like a flawless diamond. But the end for van Gogh was death by his own hand at the age of 37 and self-mutilation before that. His end keeps me from envying his exuberance, desiring but not envying.

Still ....

--Robert H. Tucker
8 December 1997

© Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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