28 May 2012


Richard Holloway began his twenty part series examining the history of doubt today (weekdays at 13:45 on the home service).   I have my doubts about this, but I’m sure it will be interesting.

He begins with a look at Paul Gauguin’s painting ‘D'où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous (Where do we come from, what are we doing and where are we going?’), painted in Tahiti in 1897.  Gauguin felt it was his best work.  I doubt that: not that he felt it was, but that it was.  But doubt appreciation is a bit like art appreciation, very subjective.

Anyway I like Richard Holloway, I think he is an honest thinker: he has the courage to doubt, and to act on his doubt, which is arguably better than acting on faith.

I like the painting as well.  I like Gauguin’s painting generally: it has so much life and energy, colour and vitality to it.  But Gauguin was a man plagued with doubt: the big questions of life troubled him.  He suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies and maybe those contributed to him seeking out a more basic, a more primitive, simpler existence in Tahiti away from the complexities the uncertainties and tensions of turn of the century Europe.

I expect a lot of people feel the same right now too. It’s too late: we took alcohol, syphilis, trousers and the bible there a long time ago, and they must have Big Macs, Tesco Express, Liptons Iced Tea and WiFi by now.

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