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July 2017, vol 13 no 2

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Stephen Colgan

Starry Night

I am often struck by the power of the mundane mind to drain the wonder and magic out of everyday life. Whatever I am exposed to on a regular basis – people, objects, experiences – becomes, to my mind's eye, flat and predictable.

For instance, I choose art to decorate my home because it really pleases me and holds some particular meaning. And yet, after a short time, it becomes invisible to me. I may only notice it if a guest remarks on it and, even then, I have to make an effort to penetrate the haze of the habitual. Ironically, the more familiar it becomes, the less I can see it.

I try to imagine what would happen if I came into possession of one of the most beautiful works of art in the world. Say I were to have Starry Night by Blessed Vincent hanging on my living room wall. At first, no doubt, I would spend long periods staring at it in awe. I would move from place to place in the room to view it from as many angles as possible. I might dare to run my fingers over the thick daubs of paint. I could get out of my bed in the middle of the night and turn on the lamp to study the masterpiece.

But, soon enough, I suspect, I would become inured to its staggering beauty. Its psychedelic colors would fade into the sepia tinged background of my life. I can see myself then, sitting on my couch listlessly watching some mediocre television series while entirely oblivious to the proximity of genius.

Guests would continue to stare in amazement at the transcendent swirls of blue and yellow. They would stand dumbstruck by the unmistakable authenticity of what they were seeing. When they regained the power of speech, they would turn to me and stammer, "What? How?"

"That?" I might say, with a shrug, "That's my Van Gogh."

starry night
if I could see
like Vincent