Everyone Is a Painter

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I'm not an artist. I don't know how to paint.

But poet Oliver Wendell Holmes contradicts me.

He said that life is painting a picture, not doing a sum.

Those words popped out at me when I read them this week.

Holmes suggests that all my life I've been painting a picture.

What appears on my canvas and yours is up to each of us.

Holmes said that life is not doing a sum.

Does he mean that life is not listing all our accomplishments, our achievements, our works. That summing them up is for nothing?

That what we do is not as important as who we are?

I've been wondering what kind of picture I've been painting in my lifetime.

Will my picture be worthy of displaying in a prominent place or will it be shoved into a dusty crowded basement, hidden from sight.

Will the picture be pleasant to look upon, or will the sins of my soul be showcased like those of Dorian Gray

Maybe you haven't heard of Dorian Gray. He first appeared in an 1891 fiction novel written by Oscar Wilde. Dorian is depicted as a handsome, wealthy young man living in 19th century London.

Later the novel was written into a black and white movie which I've seen several times since it was first presented in 1946.The film stars were Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, Donna Reed, Angela Lansbury and Peter Lawford.

It was a frightening movie. The movie tells of a young Dorian Gray who was the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward who was impressed by Dorian's beauty. Hallward introduces Dorian to Lord Henry Wooton and Dorian becomes entralled by Lord Henry's world view. Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfilment of the senses. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses a desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Hallward has painted would age rather than he. He would never grow old, instead the portrait would age.

Dorian's wish is granted, and when he pursues a life of debauchery and sin, the portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form.

The portrait begins to look harsh. Deep lines crease the countenance; a grimace replaces the once pleasant smile until finally a shaken Dorian locks it away in his old school room. He then becomes more dedicated to living a sinful and heartless life, even to the point of murdering his friend Basil Hallward. Over the years, the painting of the young Dorian warps into that of a hideous, demon-like creature, to reflect Dorian's sins.

The entire movie is based on the painting and its changes. When the audience is finally allowed to view the finished painting, viewers gasp at the ugliness of the portrait. It is grotesque but Dorian has remained as youthful as he was when he was twenty two years old.

In the end, Dorian begins to realize the harm his life is doing to himself and to others. He visits the portrait once again and stabs his portrait in the heart to be free of its evil spirit. Then Dorian collapses and dies.

When I read Oliver Wendell Holmes quote that life is a painting, not doing a sum, I was reminded of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

If we are each leaving a legacy, what will it be? Will there be love, hope and joy? Will it be that we were a good mother or father, or a good provider, or a good wife or husband? How will we be remembered? Will the painting express our passions, emotions, beliefs? Will it expose our sins, shortcomings?

Will our portrait be hidden from sight or proudly remembered by future generations?

It is up to us to pick up the brush and to finish the portrait.

How it turns out is up to us

Everyone is a painter...