Letters to Theo, "One matures in the storm.."

I keep my work together, everything aimed at getting through the exams, I consult Mendes on everything, and model my studies on what he has done, for that is how I’d like to do it too. That history of the 80 Years’ War is really wonderful, anyone would do well to make such a good fight of his life.5 Truly life is a fight,6 and one must defend oneself and resist and make plans and calculations with a cheerful and alert mind in order to make it through and get ahead. It becomes no easier the further one gets in life, and it has been rightly said:

Does the road go uphill then all the way?

‘Yes to the very end’

And will the journey take all day long?

‘From morn till night, my friend.’7

But by fighting the difficulties in which one finds oneself, an inner strength develops from within our heart, which improves in life’s fight (one matures in the storm),8 if we always endeavour to keep that heart out of which are the issues of life,9 good and simple and rich toward God,10to restore that and make it thus more and more, and to bear in mind the words that we must have a good conscience before God11 and before people.

As we regard others so are we regarded by many eyes. It is from the conscience — God’s finest gift,12 and the proof that His eye is upon us, all-seeing and all-knowing,13 and also the assurance that He be not far from every one of us,14 but as our shade upon our right hand,15 and that He keeps us from the evil16 — that our light comes in the darkness of life and of the world.17 And if we feel an eye watching us, as it were, then it is good to gaze upward sometimes as though seeing Him who is invisible.18  1v:2

Letters to Theo

Letters to Theo, "Irresistible passion for books.."

I, for one, am a man of passions, capable of and liable to do rather foolish things for which I sometimes feel rather sorry. I do often find myself speaking or acting somewhat too quickly when it would be better to wait more patiently. I think that other people may also sometimes do similar foolish things. Now that being so, what’s to be done, must one consider oneself a dangerous man, incapable of anything at all? I don’t think so. But it’s a matter of trying by every means to turn even these passions to good account. For example, to name one passion among others, I have a more or less irresistible passion for books, and I have a need continually to educate myself, to study, if you like, precisely as I need to eat my bread.

Vincent Van Gogh’s Letters online archive