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This is Paul Gauguin, but perhaps not how you’d expect to see him.

Perhaps you might expect to see him painting at an easel, arguing with Vincent Van Gogh, or perhaps even surrounded by the beautiful Tahitian women that he painted towards the end of his career.

Not, I expect, seated at a harmonium in his underpants like Terry Jones from Monty Python. No, I didn’t expect that either. You see people are – to us – who we think or imagine them to be, not necessarily as they actually are. For instance, did you know that Gauguin spent part of his childhood in Peru and that one of his parents was part Peruvian. Or did you know that he sold Tarpaulins in Denmark before his marriage fell apart, or even that he worked for a while as a labourer on the Panama canal? People are often not what we expect. Sometimes they’re better!

Actors are an excellent example of this. We tend to project upon them a personality we think they should have based solely on the information that we glean about them from their films. Hopefully we think the best of them, but in reality they are often completely different to how we imagine them. In fact I’ve caught on to this now and if someone is about to tell me some sordid story about an actor that I like, I have to stop them. to be honest I’d rather not know and live with an imagined personality and still enjoy the films.

So with that in mind, who… are we? Who are you?

Since moving into painting more regularly and embracing my… how do I put this… arty side, I’ve thought a lot about this. Chiefly because at parties and social gatherings, when you meet someone new, they invariably ask “what do you do”, as if what I do defines who I am. And as I only ‘make a living’ through gardening and tree surgery, I was always reluctant to say “I’m a gardener”. Now I’d better add at this point that I’m proud to be a gardener and that gardening is a noble profession (in case I get any muddy death threats posted through the door), but being a gardener is not who I am. To me, I’m an artist and that’s how I tend to answer that question now. Although I did once lie and tell a bloke that I was an international pearl dealer, but that was a long long time ago…

We are however many things to many people. To my wife I’m her husband, to my boys, their Dad, to my Mum and Dad, their son, but also, brother, nephew, uncle, friend, artist, gardener, worship leader, teacher, neighbour, big kid and no doubt a whole host of other hats that I wear depending on the role I’m fulfilling, and probably some less flattering ones which I’d rather remain ignorant of!

But who are we to ourselves? That’s the most important one. Who you are effects how others treat you and how you treat others in return. It’s a HUGE question and one that often follows us most of our lives. So identifying what makes you tick, your likes, loves, loathes is pretty important. Even the ancient Greeks were fond of the motto “know thy self”.

Who I am even effects mundane things like writing a blog! I could compromise my beliefs, my views, who I am to gain better stat’s or reach a wider audience, but compromise is always a hollow victory. Compromising who you are, who you perceive yourself to be, who you long to be, can make you deeply unhappy.     I’m a Christian, I can’t not mention my faith as it permeates every area of my life and if it’s genuine then so it should. It’s not my responsibility to not offend people by who I am. It is my responsibility to be polite and respectful in all I do, to “live peacefully with everyone as far as it depends on me”, but it’s not my responsibility to be someone I’m not just because that is who that person wants me to be.

In short, like Gauguin you are only ever the real you to yourself and hopefully the ones you love. Others will always have to build a ‘you’ out of the information that you provide, so be honest with yourself and perhaps others won’t be disappointed when they get to know the real you!

 

 

* http://www.retronaut.co/2012/04/paul-gauguin-playing-the-harmonium-in-his-pants-1895/

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