We’ve all asked the question “Why are we here”? It’s an age old question philosophers have been struggling with since mans’ first thoughts. If we ever do discover the answer, our behavior would surely change - for the better – or more likely, for the worst. When I first composed this painting, this question was not in mind. Only after the painting was quite developed, did I really look at it more non-objectively, and you might say it started to “speak” for itself.
I did encourage the model to think of something personal for the painting reference shoot, and her somber expression did set the tone for the piece. From that, came the reminder that some people are dealt very different lives then our own. Should we even question "Why is this?" Could something like suffering actually serve a purpose? We all know that any type of learning often requires some form of sacrifice - willingly, or unwillingly.
Then, we regularly observe those who are considered very “fortunate”, but clearly have not "learned" anything their entire lives. Unfortunately for them, one cannot take things like wealth, beauty, fame, status, or even health with us when we leave our physical world. The spirit is all that remain. Since this is the case, what do those fortunate, but mentally uneducated, take with them? Could it be those who suffered most, are actually most "fortunate" in end? This may be the beginning of an answer to a very complicated question. I hope this painting might help us contemplate such things - in our own best, or worst of times.
The children were heard playing by the stream. Their youthful voices were sweeter to Daniel’s ears then any music ever played in Mrs. Callahan’s parlor. It had been 4 years since the war had been declared over, but she missed Edward more than ever. Like any other widow, she assumed the passage of time would relieve her pain and loneliness. But as with much of her life, time alone could not mask her memories.
So once again, Daniel took refuge in her books. But now, it took nearly twice as long to read her daily dose. Some days she could not read at all since her progressive condition only allowed her to read smaller text during the brightest light of the day. The words seemed to be slowly drifting away, saying "goodbye". And once again, she was left alone to fend for herself. Some how, she hoped reading about others’ lives, their mistakes, misguidance, or misfortunes may provide the much needed distraction from her own problems and taunting memories. But unfortunately, the persistence of her reoccurring dreams would always bring her back.
Daniel continues with her reading. But because the words are nearly unrecognizable, she now fills in the blanks using her own imagination, and her own wishes. It was now clear to her that reading, her last remaining salvation, would soon leave her as well. She worried how she would cope once her sight had completely abandoned her?
But, then it happened. She suddenly felt called upon. She read the words she had long been searching for. These words seemed to leap from the pages like a welcome voice of a rescuer during a frantic shipwreck. These were just a few words, but in all her years of reading, no words "spoke" to her in such a way. Were these words merely more empty encouragement, or did these words actually apply to her? Gazing out the window and seeing the children playing was all the convincing it took.
It was like a great weight had gently been lifted away. For the first time in her life she understood she was not being punished after all. And, for some strange reason, she actually felt chosen - chosen to acquire lessons that would serve her not only now, but for all eternity. As she gazed out the window Daniel thought of those she envied all her life; those whom had not labored as she did, whom had all the finer things in life given to them, whom had families always to save them from their wrong-doings, whom had the best education money could buy, whom had the best of physical health, and whom were the most respected. She tortured herself pondering "why them, and not me?" How she would dream to be one of "them" - if even for only a day. After all, she had always been told that these were the keys to happiness.
Then slowly, a smile grew upon Daniel’s face since she now felt no more envy or jealousy for these people. In fact, she actually pitied them thinking what fools many were, and feeling so foolish herself for not realizing this long ago. Pondering her own mortality now engendered thoughts she never paid much attention to before. Why are we here? And what is it that we inevitably take with us? What truly makes one "fortunate", or not?
Daniel knew she was indeed blessed with physical beauty. But ironically, her beauty was more of a curse by attracting the wrong kind of "attention". She had suffered greatly at times, and in many different ways. Some of this was even brought on by herself in an effort to avoid more pain. But her lacks in judgment were really the result of her many fears. And these fears created impenetrable walls. Ironically, the very walls she built to protect herself from others on the outside, actually imprisoned her on the inside. In doing so, no matter what logic she called upon to justify her actions, true happiness was always just beyond her reach.
But today, Daniel discovered she’s truly the fortunate one after all. Even though her life was filled with difficulties, she learned so much having to grow up so quickly. Without some level of sacrifice or hardship, there is no lesson to be learned, no appreciation for what’s really important, and no growth as a human being.
Daniel slowly closes her book. She slides the chair back, now distancing herself from the table that for so many years, served as her crutch. It was time to call for the children - life had just begun.
Jeffry Jon Krafft