I sometimes get a bit tired of the adulation of Vincent Van Gogh. I wonder how much of it is our collective human guilt. Does the fact that he died unrecognized mean we are trying to make up for lost time in expressing our appreciation now? Or does it just make a more compelling back story?
Oh, sure, his paintings are great. But is he better than Monet, or Gauguin, or Brueghel, or Dali, or Chagall? It’s all subjective. I sort of feel the same about Shakespeare. Of course, he was an amazing writer. But he was not the only amazing writer.
That said, this little video, which appeared on my facebook page today, only adds to the Legend of Vincent Van Gogh. It’s also a good demonstration of how modern technology converges. All of the things we know, in all of the different fields of knowledge we are exploring, sometimes bump up against each other.
Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” in the late 1800s, looking out the window of the insane asylum where he was residing, shortly before dawn, when the night, proverbially, is darkest.
The mathematical formula describing turbulence wasn’t discovered until about a hundred years later. However, one scientist noticed that Vincent had painted it.
I don’t think Vincent Van Gogh was a genius physicist a hundred years ahead of his time. I don’t believe he was a visionary like Nostradamus. (I don’t even believe that Nostradamus was a visionary like Nostradamus), or a time traveler or anything like that.
But, neither do I think it’s total coincidence. One thing Van Gogh was known for was painting fast. He never made any money, but he churned out a lot of canvasses during his sad and too-short life. There is something to painting fast, or writing fast, or playing jazz, or doing improv in comedy, which leads to a special, and treasured, result. If you spend a lot of time thinking about something, your internal editor has time to stifle your impulses. It means fewer mistakes, but also less inspiration.
In fact, if you are writing fast, like Jack Kerouac blasting out “On the Road” in a single session, which might be an urban legend but I’ll bet there’s a grain of truth behind it, you are putting out directly, unfiltered, what is in your head, and perhaps it is a message from the universe beyond your mind. Everybody gets those messages, not everybody is uninhibited enough to let them flow through.
Van Gogh didn’t paint turbulence because he knew anything about turbulence, or even because he actually saw the turbulence. Van Gogh painted turbulence because he was letting the universe speak through him. Which is, perhaps, even more amazing.