Lust for Life

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There’s this beautiful teaching in Judaism that words create worlds. The creative force inherent in our words, written and spoken, has the potential to bring to life what wasn’t there before.

Personally, I find this teaching most applicable in books. I love reading and sifting through someone’s words put together to teach, inspire, and instruct. I get lost in words.

We take in words everyday, but every once in a while, you come across a set of words that stick with you, that change you, that inspire you. Recently, for me, this was reading the book Lust for Life.

Lust for Life is a fictionalized biography of the life of Vincent Van Gogh, written by Irving Stone. The book was written in 1934 and portrays the life of the Dutch painter Van Gogh, the OG tortured artist.

The book is on the one hand, a somewhat melancholy look at the struggles and setbacks endured by Van Gogh.

He suffered in life and with his art, not only facing rejection, but also the difficulty that comes with trying to forge an artistic career. Lots of loss. Lots of heartache.

Van Gogh was misunderstood.

He was rejected by family and friends.

He was labeled the social outcast, the pariah of his community.

He was told he couldn’t do the very thing he longed to do more than anything else.

And yet, he kept doing the thing put inside his soul to do: he painted.

I found myself reminded of the gift of creating and the need to press on in the face of uncertainty and self-doubt. Every person who longs to live a creative life, will face the inevitable struggle of “making it.”

I found myself in his pain. I resonated with the doubt, criticism, and self rejection. I wanted to reach into the book and pull Van Gogh out and say, “I understand.”

But what this book mentioned time and time again, is the beauty of pursuing what you’ve been put on this earth to do. If you can express yourself fully, then nothing else really matters.

No amount of prestige, money, or validation from others will suffice.

What matters is following your own heart.

This is what Vincent did.

It reminded me to think through this in my own life. How often am I following the trajectory set by others, instead of what is happening in my own heart?

We fear looking foolish. We fear letting others down. The excuses pile up rather easily.

Too old.

Too young.

Not enough experience.

Too late in life.

Not enough talent.

Have you said any of these to yourself?

Lust for Life is a story about living in the fullness of who you are, of really capturing the essence of this life. It is about doing what you know you have to do, even if no one else understands.

It’s a story about an eccentric painter, but it’s more than that. It’s a tale about anyone who follows their heart.

This is the writer, the singer, the teacher, the entrepreneur, the filmmaker, the non-profit manager, the coach, the pastor.

Because you owe it to yourself to live with an insatiable thirst for life.

It’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to live in your shadow self. It’s easy to settle, especially when that’s what has been modeled to you. It takes a different kind of resolve and courage to chase the dream.

After reading this book, I certainly feel inspired to keep going, but I have another feeling bubbling beneath the surface as well: I want more.

I want more of what life has to offer. I don’t want to waste another moment doing anything that takes me away from what I’ve been put on this earth to do.

Because life is a gift, so I want to live it with all the vitality and vigor I can muster. I want to lust for life.

Like Van Gogh, I want to chase my passion and dream with the complete satisfaction that comes from knowing I expressed myself fully.

The rest is commentary. The crux of the story is following my soul. I wonder if you’ll do the same.

The world will be a better place if we fight for what makes us come alive.

This is what it means to have a lust for life.

And it’s how I want to live.

 

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