So many people wander around this planet tormented by pain, depression, anxiety, fear, their past, anything you can think of that haunts the human race. So many of us walk around aimlessly and simply survive. We stop living. There are also those who decide to brace themselves from the harsh pain of reality. They decide to drown out the death that is living with alcohol, drugs, people, music, whatever it is that takes them away. They never stop running. There are also others who decide to build up a thick wall and sit behind it comfortably wasting away while they pretend to live. They die inside, withering behind the wall they’ve built. Cynicism becomes their language often accompanied by sarcasm, humor or wit. These are the people who are the clowns of the group of friends they are a part of. They are capable of making anybody laugh because by hearing others laugh and seeing their joy, this soul gets to feel alive for a split second before it goes back to withering away behind the wall they’ve build. This is what I am. Option number 3. I don’t wander aimlessly, yeah I drink occasionally when it gets too hard but my main form of defense is my cynicism. I’ve lost my faith. I’ve lost my ability to really see beauty because I don’t believe it exists.
Wow. I actually started to cry when I typed that sentence. That is the person behind my wall coming out and trying to live. It hurts so much. It is so painful to stop hiding and start living. How? How does one begin? How do you pretend to be alive when you feel dead inside? The depression and anxiety haunts me everyday and I try so hard. I didn’t even notice that I had lost sight of beauty. I’ve lost my faith in the good things around me. I assume the worst because that’s usually what happens. It’s like I brace myself for the worst so that I can either be happily surprised or roll my eyes because I got it correct. There’s no disappointment in those set of options and I like that. I like to be safe behind my wall. If I’m gonna wither here, at least I’ll be comfortable.. right?
But no. There’s another option that I haven’t seen. Or maybe I have seen it but my eyes refused to accept it as reality because there’s just no way. This option takes shape in an example set by Vincent van Gogh. If you haven’t seen Doctor Who, man, you really need to. Season 5 episode 10. I’m shamelessly promoting this show because that episode inspired me to write again and I haven’t been hit in a long, long time.
There was this creature that only Van Gogh could see. Everyone around him laughed at him and thought he was a mad man. The children threw stones, the bartender laughed, the waitresses spit at his paintings. Then the Doctor and his companion Amy show up to investigate a weird shape they had seen in a painting in a museum. As it turns out, the weird shape is the invisible monster Van Gogh fights. The doctor can only see it through a device that was gifted to him by a smelly godmother. Van Gogh treats his art like worthless garbage and feels the same about himself. He is plagued with depression and wears the pain on his face. He would lash out at those who attacked him because he was afraid. He was fighting an invisible battle that no one could see. I think maybe the physical creature that was invisible to the doctor and Amy represents the depression he was battling. Nobody else around could see it and he looked stupid for swinging a chair in the air. The thing is, he was fighting a battle that no one else can understand. Those of us struggling with depression and anxiety deal with the same thing. We swing our chairs desperately hoping to get help but no one offers a hand. We get laughed at or called lazy. We get put down, looked down upon when we try to fight so we put our chairs down and let ourselves die for the sake of a reputation.
I’m going to spoil the episode so if you want to watch it first, stop reading now and watch before you continue.
Have you gone to watch it? No? Well, your loss my friend. 😉
Anyway, the three people, Van Gogh, the Doctor and Amy end up in a church where the creature was spotted in a painting. The Doctor hopes to come across the monster there to figure out what it was and why it was there. The creature crashes through a window and surrounds them as Van Gogh wildly swings a chair at what appears to be thin air. The viewer gets a glimpse of a lizard looking alien though the Doctor’s device. We’re afraid and want the monster to be killed immediately. The Doctor reveals that the monster is part of a herd of ruthless creatures and has been left behind simply due to the brutal nature of the species. It’s alone on the planet Earth, fending for itself. I started feeling sad for the monster but Van Gogh spears the monster in the chest with his stand he was using for the painting of the church before the sadness really hit. The monster collapses and the Doctor draws close. We hear some gurgling from the monster and the Doctor translates what the monster was trying to say: “I’m afraid.”
Those were the creature’s last words. It was blind and couldn’t see where it was going. Van Gogh stares blankly at the creature he has just killed and realizes it is just like him: lonely, blind and wandering. It was lashing out because of fear. The eyes that had previously been assumed to be merciless turn out to be eyes of fear. Behind every strong appearing person is a frightened child. Van Gogh has an epiphany and realizes the people lashing out at him were simply afraid and not cruel. He realizes the monster did not deserve to die. In the end, what the viewers thought was winning turns out to be questionable. What is good? What is evil? If this is supposedly the definition of good, what has happened to us? If this is good, then maybe I don’t want to be good. But if I don’t want to be good and I’m not evil, what am I?
I thought that the tears would stop here but no. The Doctor always has a trick up his sleeve! This time, he takes Van Gogh back to the museum where he and Amy were at to show him that he is worth something. Van Gogh ends up in his own exhibit, bewildered by the love and attention he was receiving. The Doctor approaches a tour guide and asks him to rate Van Gogh in the top 100 artists of all time. The man proceeds to describe Van Gogh as a mad but brilliant man. Not only was he the best painter of all time but possibly the greatest man who ever lived. He took his pain and combined it with his passion to capture the joy, beauty, delicacy, magnificence and brilliance of life around him. He showed us extraordinary scenes through his strong command of color and ability to be in awe of everything around him. The tour guide said that he was able to take pain and add beauty. Not many people can do that. Van Gogh sobbed and hugged the tour guide but maybe it wasn’t the same Van Gogh that Amy and the Doctor met but a man who had recently escaped his walls.
I thought the tears would stop here but wrong again. The Doctor gets me every time. Once Van Gogh returns home, Amy and the Doctor return to the museum. Amy is eager to see if hundreds of new paintings have been added in hopes that Van Gogh didn’t take his own life. When she enters the exhibit, tears roll down her cheeks as she realizes Van Gogh did in fact take his life even after the encounter with her and the Doctor. She looks at the Doctor and says, “We didn’t change anything.”
The Doctor pulls her closer to the painting of the church and we see that the weird shape is gone. The monster has disappeared. Amy then walks to a painting of sunflowers and sees that it was for her. On the vase, written very clearly are the words: For Amy. Vincent.
The Doctor once again pulls her in and tells her just because life has bad moments it doesn’t mean the good moments are spoiled or less significant. He tells her that they added a great pile of beauty to his once tormented life. Van Gogh went from hiding behind a wall and lashing out to the last option, the option I want to be, someone who captures the beauty of life. That is the ultimate victory against the pain we face daily. That is what makes life so wonderful: our ability to see beauty and goodness despite the bad.
I don’t want to be someone that has lost faith and hides constantly. I want to be someone that escapes from the wall and adds to the world. I want to be an active character in my play, my script, my show, my movie. I don’t want to hide to protect myself and be cynical. Sarcasm will never leave me but it can’t be a defense anymore, simply a way to make people laugh. I don’t want to be funny just to hear laughter, I want to be funny simply because I want to share the laughter inside of me. Laughter will be ringing from my own mouth because I possess joy despite the pain. That’s the option I want to be.