Perhaps it is because of its prominent place in the 1980’s classic film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but one of my favorite paintings came to mind during a nine mile run on Saturday morning. Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte captures a warm, relaxing afternoon at a park on the Seine in Paris. There are animals and people of diverse ages and classes doing a myriad of activities such as knitting, smoking, swimming, and playing a horn. Saturday’s weather was glorious and it seemed that everyone was outside enjoying the weather. Folks were working in the yard, other playing catch, and some just chatting with their neighbors. The world felt alive and I had the privilege of observing it during the long, slow run.
The cynic would read that paragraph and think, “What a loon! He must have started on the Easter candy too early.” A religious person may believe that the spirit of Easter weekend captured me or the runner may recognize it as a classic “runner’s high.” Personally, I don’t know the reason; I can only promise that the sentiment was real and sustained. I asked myself why I did not notice and cherish these simple blessings during every run? Why was Saturday so different? Perhaps the self-focused worries of life kept me from noticing all the great things outside myself; my problems often cause me to miss external goodness.
During Saturday’s run, the image of the painting returned. It is an example of pointillism, a technique of painting in which tiny, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. The technique relies on the ability of the viewer’s brain and eye to blend the color dots into a fuller range of tones. Seurat was one of the developers of the technique which was mocked widely ridiculed in those early days and is not terribly respected today. Like the scorned technique, one who looks at the world through the rose-colored glasses may be considered naive but also has a unique ability to see the blessings and hope in the world. There is a quiet beauty that we tend to overlook. The expression “slow down and smell the roses” is anathema for runners, but there is no reason that with a healthy mindset we can briskly run the well-trodden path and still appreciate the fuller tones of life. Sorry for the pun, but isn’t that one of the life’s most important points?