Paul Gauguin, now regarded as a French Post-Impressionist artist, was not received well by his old painter friends while living. And having abandoned his wife and children he had no options or resources for getting by. He never found artistic success, either critically or financially in his lifetime.
However, there is one painting he completed that has stood the test of time.
This painting, completed with great fever and intention just days before his sad ascent to death, was intended as his final testament to the world. It is a massive three panel scape – painted on whatever materials the impoverished Gauguin could cobble together – depicting Tahitian women of all life phases engaged in various everyday activities and inactivities. Moving from right to left, it shows the beginning of life depicted in an infant and the end of life in a sad old woman with various stages in between. Art historians and the common observer struggle to figure out what his actual testament might be. The painting doesn’t seem to really communicate much of anything. And perhaps that is the message itself.
While the meaning of the actual images might remain elusive, the title of the painting speaks volumes. It captures three of the most searching questions any human soul can ponder. The title is comprised of questions that most of us have asked at one time or another:
D’ Ou’ venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Ou’ allons-nous?
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
Why are these questions significant? What do they have to do with our exploration of the family?
Where do we come from? asks… What is the source of our being?
What are we? wants to know… What is our nature? What are we made for?
Where are we going? probes … What’s our destiny? What is our existence, and everything else, moving toward?
These are the questions that are at the core of what it means to be human; they are natural to all of us.
The good news is that there are answers – true and beautiful answers – found in glorious places. They are found in an exceedingly profound and breathtaking story. Where this story takes you and how it answers these questions will likely surprise you.
Can you think of three more important questions that any soul can ask? Have you ever considered them yourself?