So Vincent Van Gogh was almost a Methodist Local Preacher? I learnt this week that he attended meetings at Isleworth Methodist Church for a short while in the 1880s when he was living and working in London. I expect our friends in Richmond and Hounslow circuit have known this for years, and around the London District there will be lots of people who will point and say ‘Didn’t you know that already?’ and I’ll have to confess that I didn’t. It seems that his father was a pastor and this influenced his wider concern for humanity, represented in some of his paintings.
Learning this fact about Van Gogh was one of those little moments that makes your heart – well I was going to say leap but that would be exaggerating – jump slightly. An unexpected jolt of pleasure, at a time when there is so much uncertainty about so many things.
Van Gogh also appeared to like the simple life as evidenced by some of his rather Spartan interior paintings of chairs, but matched with the resplendent glory of his sunflowers, his evident genius shines through to this day.
Finding out something unexpected about a person often, and sadly, only comes out at their funerals. The eulogy can tell the story of someone you realise you only half knew, and now it’s too late to find out more about their hidden gifts and talents, or their amazing life experiences. That’s not necessarily a case of their hiding a light under a bushel, but perhaps more to do with our not engaging deeply enough or asking the right questions when we have a moment to talk. We also know that later on we can also discover things we may not have wished to know, or there is a legacy of behaviour that needs attention and healing.
This is not meant to be an open invitation to dig deep into the lives of those who have passed on to discover hidden skeletons in the attic. It’s more about taking the time now to be alert, curious, interested, to ask the right questions, and take a chance to really get to know someone before it’s too late.
Enjoy Vincent’s ‘Starry night’ at Tate Britain until August 11th. Hum Don McLean’s song as you wander around – but not too loudly!