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March 22, 2021 Monday 12:05:36 PM IST

Pain Passes, Beauty Remains

Reflections

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) grew up in a working-class family in Limoges, France. As a young man, he started his work in a porcelain factory. Pretty soon he enrolled in an art school and started painting. Initially, he was not financially successful. But slowly his “impressionist” painting in full color made him rich and famous. The fact that in 1990, his two paintings – Bal au Moulin de la Galette and Montmartre – were sold for $78.1 million shows how well respected and admired his works are.

By 1892, Renoir was afflicted with severe arthritis. However, he continued to paint regularly even when it caused him stabbing pain. Once his artist friend Henri Mattise asked him, “Why do you paint when it causes you so much pain?” “The pain passes, but the beauty remains,” Renoir replied with a smile.

What Renoir said about his painting is also true about our life. There is so much pain and suffering in our life. The pain passes, but the impact of our suffering will last. Think about the troubles and the sufferings the parents go through in bringing up their children. Their troubles and sufferings don’t last. But the impact of the sufferings they undergo will last. That is the beauty of suffering.

Look at the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Jesus underwent excruciating pain during his death on the cross. He suffered so much as well depicted in the movie, Passion of the Christ, produced and directed by Mel Gibson. This suffering was meant for the salvation of the world. It was through his suffering and death on the cross Jesus brought salvation to the whole world. In other words, his suffering brought so much beauty to our life, giving us hope in life after death.

Aham is a Bengali novel written by BimalMitra (1912-1991), a prolific writer of novels and short stories in Bengali and Hindi. In this novel, the focus is on Jyotirmaya Sen, chief minister and the undisputed leader of the Congress party in Bengal. The novel begins with a discussion on the joys and sorrows in life. Sen has much to say about the consequential role played by both triumphs and tragedies in life. “Sorrow is deeper and wider than happiness,” Sen says. “It is possible to find the end of happiness. However, it is not so with sorrow. It is never-ending. Also, it comes without being asked. That may be the reason nobody has any respect for sorrow. Nonetheless, many people have succeeded in investing this disrespectable commodity and made huge profits.”

Sen is a political leader who succeeded in investing his sufferings and made huge political profits. It was the terrible sufferings he underwent during the Indian Independence Struggle that catapulted him to the role of the chief minister of Bengal. And he was extremely conscious of it. However, when he talks about investing our sufferings he is not interested in talking about his sufferings. Rather, he is passionate to talk about the redeeming value of the sufferings of Jesus on the cross.

Sen looks at Jesus as someone who succeeded in investing his sufferings for the salvation of all mankind. By doing so Jesus also took upon himself the burden of the sins of many and justified them, says Sen. He concludes the discussion on the joys and sufferings in life with a question, “Can’t we also invest our sufferings and make profits out of them?”  

The sufferings and death of Jesus on the cross is a reminder that it is well worth investing our sufferings for our good as well as for the good of others. And the resurrection of Jesus is a reminder that our investment in sufferings will bring us huge profits including participation in his eternal life promised by Jesus. As Renoir said, the pain passes but the beauty remains. Our sufferings will not last forever. However, the beauty – our resurrection -- will last forever.


Jose Panthaplamthottiyil

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