December 15 – Goya and Melville – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
The sun doesn’t stop shining because people are blind.
It is a hard challenge to stay true to ourselves in the face of indifference. Rejection and opposition are painful, but being treated as if you don’t exist is quietly devastating. This soft puncture is particularly human. Eagles soar and glide for hours in canyon air, and the fact that no one knows does not lessen their ability to fly.But for us there is a constant elusive heroism in being who we are, especially when we are misunderstood, judged, or ignored. Somehow our need for love gives tremendous power to the opinions of others, and so, we are required to guard against turning our lives over to the expectations of others.
A great example of hearing one’s deeper self is the Spanish painter Goya. Writing about Goya, Andre Malraux tells us that after going deaf in 1792, the painter understood that “to allow his genius to become apparent to himself it was necessary that he should dare to give up aiming to please.” It is both touching and instructive that Goya couldn’t fully realize his God-given gifts until he went deaf to the demands of those around him.
One of the saddest examples of being ignored is the novelist Herman Melville. Having survived many years at sea against his will, Melville had authored several bestselling sea adventures. But when he opened his soul and wrote Moby Dick, two things happened: one of the greatest novels ever written by an American was birthed, and the American public laughed at the great white whale and its maker. He was ridiculed and dismissed.
This deep and sensitive man was so wounded by this that he painfully withdrew, and at the age of thirty-two, at the height of his powers, he virtually stopped writing for nearly forty years. Tragically, he extinguished his inner voice because those around him couldn’t hear.
I carry both Goya and Melville around with me as reminders of how precious and unique each of our gifts is. No one can really know what you are called to or what you are capable of but you. Even if no one sees or understands, you are irreplaceable.