Why is it that I feel I need to have approval and be recognized, in my work especially? It puts me in a trap – I cannot do without it. I know I am in this trap, but I am caught in it and I cannot seem to get out of it. Can you help me be able to find the door?
The question is from Kendra. It has to be remembered that it is everybody’s question.
Our whole life’s structure is such that we are taught that unless there is a recognition we are nobody, we are worthless. The work is not important, but the recognition. And this is putting things upside down. The work should be important – a joy in itself. You should work, not to be recognized, but because you enjoy being creative; you love the work for its own sake.
There have been very few people who have been able to escape from the trap the society puts you in – like Vincent van Gogh. He went on painting – hungry, without a house, without clothes, without medicine, sick – but he went on painting. Not a single painting was being sold, there was no recognition from anywhere, but the strange thing was that in these conditions he was still happy – happy because what he wanted to paint he has been able to paint. Recognition or no recognition, his work is valuable intrinsically.
By the age of thirty-three he had committed suicide – not because of any misery, anguish, no, but simply because he had painted his last painting, on which he had been working for almost one year, a sunset. He tried dozens of times, but it was not up to his standard and he destroyed it. Finally he managed to paint the sunset the way he had longed to.
He committed suicide, writing a letter to his brother, “I am not committing suicide out of despair. I am committing suicide because now there is no point in living – my work is done. Moreover, it has been difficult to find ways of livelihood. But it was okay because I had some work to do, some potential in me needed to become actual. It has blossomed, so now it is pointless to live like a beggar.
“Up to now I had not even thought about it, I had not even looked at it. But now that is the only thing. I have blossomed to my utmost; I am fulfilled, and now to drag on, finding ways of livelihood, seems to be just stupid. For what? So it is not a suicide according to me, but just that I have come to a fulfillment, a full stop, and joyously I am leaving the world. Joyously I lived, joyously I am leaving the world.”
Now, almost a century afterwards, each of his paintings is worth millions of dollars. There are only two hundred paintings available. He must have painted thousands, but they have been destroyed; nobody took any note of them.
Now to have a van Gogh painting means you have an aesthetic sense. His painting gives you a recognition. The world never gave any recognition to his work, but he never cared. And this should be the way to look at things.