One has to look into people like Vincent van Gogh. Why did a man who could produce such immensely significant paintings go mad? In my opinion he never went mad. But according to everybody who knew him, he was mad. He was mad because he never worked, he never got well educated. He was mad because his family persisted, “Get educated” – they wanted to make him a priest – and he refused. “That job is respectable, that job is financially the best, it is powerful.”
But he refused, and he said, “I want to become a painter.”
The family simply said, “If you want to become a painter you must be mad, because what are you going to gain out of your paintings? If you want to become a painter, then we will have nothing to do with you. Just leave us alone, don’t bother us anymore.”
Hungry, without money – sometimes a few friends helped, but who was going to help him for long? And once a friend who had helped him saw his paintings, he stopped helping him because those paintings were not understandable. They were as mysterious as existence itself. But who was there to appreciate them?
His younger brother was very sad for him because he had a certain understanding about paintings. He used to work as a salesman for a big firm which was selling all kinds of art pieces, including paintings. He could understand a little bit. He had known the best paintings in the shop, he had seen the best sculptures. He had some sense and sensitivity.
So he used to send him just enough money so that he could eat two meals every day. And what would van Gogh do? – four days out of seven he would eat, and three days he would save the money to purchase canvases, colors. So he was eating only on alternate days.
Naturally, anybody would think this man is mad; he is starving but he continues to paint. And he is certainly insane, because he could not sell a single painting his whole life. Nobody was ready to give a single cent.
His brother – that younger brother who was supporting him – was very sad that he could not have even the consolation that somebody had purchased a painting; that at least somebody had come and appreciated. So he asked a friend, gave him money and told him, “Go to van Gogh and purchase a painting from him. I want to give my brother a little bit of consolation that at least there is one man who understands and is ready to pay.”
The man went. He had no sense of art, but he said to van Gogh, “I would like to purchase a painting.” Van Gogh could not believe it. Tears came to his eyes.
He said, “You are welcome, come inside and look. I have many paintings. Whichever you want you can take, and whatever you want to pay for it is more than enough. That you have come to purchase a painting is enough reward for me.”
The man said, “I am not interested in paintings. You can give me any, and here is the money.”
You can understand the shock of the man. His tears dried. He could not believe it. It was a simple, logical corollary. He said, “You must have been sent by my brother. Take this money back. And even if you bring millions of dollars, I am not going to sell any of the paintings to you. I will throw those paintings out and give them to beggars, but not to you. Just get out of the house.”