Mr. Behrman's Masterpiece
O Henry's Mr. Behrman did succeed, finally, in painting his masterpiece. His masterpiece turned out to be something extraordinary. It was a masterpiece not because the painting fetched him worldwide fame or financial rewards. It was a masterpiece for a different reason.
He remained the same old Mr. Behrman, a drunk, a frivolous character till the very end. It was pitiable to see his blank canvass on which his masterpiece was supposed to be painted. It was old, worn-out and turning brown, like Behrman himself, telling its own tale of the never-ending wait.
One couldn't help but wonder if that one stroke of genius' inspiration that he's been waiting for, would ever come. After all, he was an old drunk who was to be found more often than not in an inebriated state rather than sober.
But he did.
His muse woke him up one stormy night and amidst the beating rain and weakening body, despite the shivering cold, he got up to paint his masterpiece with his old, worn out, shaky hands.
No, he didn't paint it on the canvass reserved for this long awaited "Godot.' He painted it on the windowsill. And what did he paint? A mere "ivy leaf." But what a painting it turned out to be! What a masterpiece it was!
It was a life saving leaf that he painted, a single, lorn, little green leaf. Poor Mr. Behrman! He didn't live long, not even a day, to see the miracle his masterpiece had performed.
Mr. Behrman has painted his masterpiece and he's gone. But, I can't help wondering when I'll be able to come up with my masterpiece. I'd have no grudge with anyone if my greatest work/piece doesn't turn out to be as sublime as Mr. Behrman's was. I'd have no complaints if it doesn't save anyone's life.
But I do want it to be something special, something that the whole world will stand up to look. Is it possible? Do I have it in me to come up with such a thing? It's a very intriguing question.
I know I have the answer to the question. But I don't want to answer it, to myself and to the rest of the world. Nevertheless, I'll continue to wait for my masterpiece. I'll keep looking for that muse who can inspire me to reach that so far unscaled height.
I have tried. I have tried over and over again. And every time, I had to give it up somewhere in between.
Things seem to be moving along quite smoothly. Everything seems perfect. I hold my breath to look at it for a second. Suddenly, I find it too banal, even disgracing.
I start thinking if it's worth the effort. When a work I had done with so much labour and concentration appears too ordinary and trivial to me, what would others think of it?
Am I so dumb! One can't help but start looking at things from a different angle. In anger and shame, I come up with an all out effort to destroy that ugly looking thing. I scream and shout, even cry. But, does it help? Does it change the fact that I am a loser?
I keep sulking and crying over it for some time. Then I start all over again, more determined. The same thing happens again. The same old story of unfulfilled dream. Once again, I get busy destroying that symbol of failure with a fume and wrath. Every time, I try to get a grip of myself and give it another try.
So many years have gone. So many things have happened. I've seen others come up with their masterpieces. I've seen others doing really well in life. I've seen lots of people living happily. But all I am left with, to show to the world, is a long history of failure, professionally, financially, and what not?
Jilted in love, unrequited love, fired from job, betrayed and disowned by friends and family, secluded by society, I've seen them all. I fail to even recognize myself in the mirror sometimes. So I ask myself, "am I going insane? Or am I cracked?"
No. It can't be. I can't be an insane. Otherwise, why do I still feel like a human? Why do I still think I can do it? Why do I still think I can come up with that long awaited masterpiece?
Mr. Behrman's masterpiece did save a life. But it also took a life. Maybe, I'll have to wait till the very end like him for that elusive idea which will culminate into a miracle.
* Hiyang (or James Watson in previous article )contributes to e-pao.net regularly. The writer can be contacted at musingamong_cauliflower(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was webcasted on January 03rd, 2010.
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