Chapter 8: To Be Rightly Tuned
Any schoolchild can say, “This is nonsense. Stars are not so small, and trees - who has seen such big trees? Reaching above the stars?” But Vincent van Gogh used to say, “Whenever I see a tree, this is my feeling: that the earth is trying to reach the stars, to transcend the stars, through the trees. These are the hands of the earth reaching for the unknown, for the transcendental. And I love my earth, hence my stars are small and my trees are big. I am part of this earth, I am also a hand of my earth. To me stars are small.”
This is not a question of astronomy, physics, mathematics. It is a totally different vision. Trees are seen as ambitions of the earth, love affairs of the earth with the sky. But who is going to appreciate him?
In one of his paintings the sun is painted black. Now who has ever seen a black sun? But he used to say that the sun that shines outside is black compared to the sun that is inside. It is a comparison. Kabir will agree; Kabir says, “When I saw the inner sun, then I knew that the outer sun is just a black hole. When I saw my inner life, then I knew that the outer life is nothing but another name for death.”
The moment the inner is known, suddenly the outer starts fading away. Now, van Gogh is talking in a mystic way - he is a mystic - but who will understand? It will take years for people to understand. Van Gogh lived and died unappreciated, unknown. He remained absolutely unknown.
You will be surprised to know, now each of his paintings is so valuable that no other painting can compete. Even Picasso’s paintings are not so valuable - millions of dollars for a single painting. In his own day, in his whole life, he could not sell a single painting. He had to distribute his paintings to friends or to the man who used to give him a cup of tea in the morning free of charge. Those same paintings now cost millions of dollars. People had discarded them; people accepted them out of politeness, because as far as they were concerned it was all junk, so why collect it?
Vincent van Gogh committed suicide when he was only thirty-three. It was impossible to live; he could not earn a single pie. His brother used to give him enough money, just enough, to exist, to survive. But he needed money to paint - for the canvas and the colors and the brushes. So this was his arrangement: out of seven days.he used to get money every Sunday for one week. Every week, for three days he would eat and for four days he would fast, so that money could be saved to purchase canvases, colors, and other things that he needed.
To me, van Gogh’s fasting is far more significant than all the fasts that have been done by your so-called saints. This fasting has something beautiful in it, something spiritual in it. When your so-called saints go on a fast, it is a means. They are fasting so that they can reach heaven and enjoy all the heavenly joys. But van Gogh’s fasting has a totally different quality to it: his love to create.