I’d Like to Learn to Love it Anyway

Painting: The Rain Keeps Falling

The first echoes of this painting began several months ago, when I stumbled upon a photograph of a streetcar in a rainy street. In itself, I realize that doesn’t sound particularly noteworthy. Yet, something about the picture struck me. Something about the combination of blue and gray tones, or the motion that the motionless image contained—it had me mesmerized. It was like a silent commentary on living in a world that’s longing for redemption. And in some way, it resonated with a deep loneliness I was struggling with at the time.

So, I determined that one day, I would paint that exact image. And I would paint it as accurately as I could, as some kind of an attempt to express, understand, and respond to the feelings it had brought to the surface.

A few weeks later, I undertook the task, and as I got deep into the project, I found that I enjoyed it more than any painting I’ve done recently. Maybe that was because it was dealing with such a deep-felt emotion, or because I didn’t have to think very hard—only paint the image in front of me. Or perhaps it was simply because the picture contained rain that led me to love it so much…who knows?

I can’t help but love rain. There’s an honesty in that sort of weather; rainy skies seem to better understand the weight of living in this world. All is gray, heavy, and dreary. Water falls and keeps falling, almost as if the earth is weeping over the brokenness it contains. Yet, it isn’t without hope. Rain cleanses and carries with the expectation that, when it’s all over, something beautiful will grow.

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mid-process

When you step back and take it all in, this world is a heartbreaking place. Tragedies happen; nothing feels certain or secure. Everything we hold dear could disappear in an instant. People we love die and we are left here without them. The innocent are abandoned and abused. We’re all getting older and our bodies are slowly but surely wearing away; anything could happen, and the earth itself is raging against us. We might very well end up completely alone.

This was the mindset I began the painting with. But although that mindset might be true, it’s also incomplete. This is something I learned more of through the past few months, and it’s best illustrated by a song I stumbled across a couple of weeks ago—the same week I (finally) finished the painting.

As I drove home one night, I was listening to J Lind’s album For What It’s Worth, and the song Letter to the Editor came on. The lyrics left me breathless. You should go listen to it right now, I’ll wait. I’m serious, go check it out.

 

“It’s not that hard to find a flaw when the earth is red in tooth and claw, but I’d like to learn to love it anyway.”

“No, I don’t want to love in spite of it, like it’s just some sad mistake. No, I would rather love because of it, oh, the contrast that creates all of the colors bound with every twist of this kaleidoscopic fate! No, I’d like to learn to love it…

Yes, I’d like to learn to love it anyway.”

I can’t get those lyrics out of my head since. This has become my hope for this painting, and in a way, my hope for how all of us walk in this terrible beautiful world. That we would feel the heaviness and it would break our hearts. And that we would rejoice in the beauty we find and let it break our hearts as well. That somehow, the combination of both would cause us to lift our eyes to the Source of all these shadows we see. That we’d appreciate the darkness for the fact that it makes the light all the brighter.

As Sleeping at Last so eloquently put it: “Darkness exists to make light truly count.”

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