It happened while walking through the Impressionist exhibit at the
of Fine Arts in . A place where they proudly have no maps to
guide you, just French speaking docents who scornfully point when asked about
the locations of exhibits. Much of the work I had seen before in various
museums, but new for me were the quotes from Renoir, adorning the walls in
black letters about six inches tall, above the art work created by him and the
other brilliant hands and minds from the Impressionist Era. Montreal
Many were quotes or comments in regards to the critics, those who doubted the movement of this new art form from its inception-- scoffing at the colors or the subject or the style. These critics, from a conservative mindset, dismissed the new ideas, new ways of thinking and new ways of seeing the world as nonsense, less-than-art, or worse.
Revealed in their words was not just contempt for the new, but reverence for the old—for the established. But whom did history declare as the victor in that timeless argument between the old and new? The visionary versus the skeptic clinging with all his or her might to the log jammed into the river of the past. Afraid that the waters of progress would sweep them clear off the map of history and render their time on earth meaningless, or at least their opinions less significant than they ever though they would be.
The answer of “who won” is in the name on the walls, and in the brushstrokes, and in the books, and in every element of recorded history. Whether in battle or art, music or science, love or hate—history and eternity belong to those who go outside themselves—push their world and the world of those around them into new places. Often this growth happens not because of people saying it could—but because of people saying it couldn’t or shouldn’t.
I have come to know the power of that clinging to the past, what was known, and of a man’s ability to link himself so strongly to a role or a position or a belief that he looses himself in it to such a depth that it drowns him. So addicted to the process, he defends it as he would his family. Fighting with all available passion and strength any idea—any person—that would dare offer a new way, a new direction, or a different way of holding the brush.
But what these people—from those that battled Jesus to those that fight against Gay Marriage fail to understand is that the natural progress of the human order is growth. All things must grow, for else how do we define the difference between a chair and a plant? The chair will always be a chair, but the plant (in the paraphrased words) of CS Lewis—MUST grow from its seed self, to it larger self—to its flowering self. Or else it is not much of a plant at all.
I've known painters who never did any good work because instead of painting their models they seduced them. (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)
Like all other living things, we as humans, or artists, can be distracted. We can loose our way amongst the dinosaurs and be dragged back into the caverns of the normal—of the same—of the old proven ways. Not everyone will overcome that darkness, whether internal or external—to become the glorious flower—paint the seminal work—write the Pulitzer prize winning book—or love so completely that it brings tears to their eyes. However, everyone can. The same seeds are sewn in the hearts and minds and DNA of all of us. That so few of us reach it is a testament to the power that we bestow on those critics—on those that wish not to see us grow—succeed—love.
Whatever their names may be, they have always been, always shall be. But if you use them not as the stone to weigh you down, or the cloud to darken the sky—but rather the motivation—and the inspiration—then you will begin to know your way—your path of growth. If you simply learn that “they” do not matter, whoever they shall be, then you will know the power that is contained within the soul of a person doing what she knows is the right thing to do.
Not only will you benefit from it, but all of humankind will as well. For the efforts of those who followed their way, whether by serving as light or leading the fight against darkness, are not recorded in only their own family stories—but in our stories. Theirs are the names on statues, on buildings, on the pages of books, and of our collective conscious.
Just imagine for one moment what we are capable of if just 10% more people followed their dreams—and did not become mired in the opinions of others, the fear of failing, or the noose of low self-esteem. What lies out there in the minds and abilities of people too afraid to lead themselves away from their personal prison? A cure for cancer? An end to poverty and world hunger? The solution for world peace?
Sadly, far too many profit from things as they are. They make money on the sale of weapons, or the sale of ideas that preach to closed minds tired old ideas. They sell a way of being that flies in the face of the march of human history and the lessons of our past. Even more people see these problems and so many others as unsolvable. Permanent—
ingrained in our nature. How many people, told they have cancer, have simply resigned from life—long before the disease would have ever taken them. How many more, with an attitude of resilience—have either beaten the disease entirely—or turned their final days into final months or years—often making amazing accomplishments in that added time.
I know that resignation to fear—to criticism, to adversity is not a version of our best selves. Either as individuals or as a community. Why have so many great people overcome adversity to lead amazing lives? Why have the best days of a Nation so often followed its greatest challenge? For if a single artist can decide to follow his passion—paint the way he wants to—portray the world as he sees it—then that power can be found within us all. And that beauty can be brought forth by a family—by a city—by a country—by a world.
But it remains our responsibility to use—to overcome. No matter what the others may say. No matter what they may do. The future demands it of us—if it is to be any more than a repeat of the past. And our souls demand—if we are ever to meet the highest calling of ourselves—for us not to loose what makes us special, beautiful, and unique. It is our role to play, our picture to paint, and as long as it is incomplete—so too is our story and that of the world in which we live.
You've got to be a fool to want to stop the march of time. (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)
Quotes Retrieved from: http://www.robertgenn.com