Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Life and happiness are less complicated than they seem

If you don't live in the United States of America, you may have never heard of Anna Mary Robertson Moses. She was popularly known as Grandma Moses and died in 1961, when she was 101 years old. Her days were spent working, initially for other people and later for herself.

During her life, Ms. Moses did farm work, cooked, washed clothes, raised her children, and made butter and embroideries. Her earnings remained modest for many decades, but she wasted no time complaining. She simply had too much to do, especially when she became a widow at 57.

Making embroideries kept her busy. It was the sort of work that she liked, a combination of creativity and routine, a challenge to her energies and imagination. Unfortunately, when she turned 76, arthritis prevented her from doing further needlework and she had to stop making embroideries. 

Many people who reach that age give up whatever illusions they have left

They tell themselves that they can go no farther and fall prey to psychological immobility. Once they relinquish their will to live, their physical condition soon catches up with their attitude.

In contrast, when arthritis prevented Grandma Moses from doing embroidery work, she simply acknowledged the fact and searched for an alternative occupation. She chose to take up painting and began to produce her first works, which she would give away to family and friends. 

Before long, her new activity turned into a passion

Grandma Moses would devote about six hours every day to painting, which she did mainly in her kitchen, often producing a finished work in one session. At that speed, her hand quickly gained confidence and mastery. In her paintings, the motives came from her memory and the bright colours from her philosophy.

After a while, she started to put up her work for sale. Since no art gallery would stage an exhibition for a 78 year old neophyte, Grandma Moses convinced a nearby drugstore to showcase her work. Her asking price was just a few dollars per painting.

As chance would have it, an art collector passed by the drugstore, saw her paintings, and purchased a few of them. Those sales proved that, if she persisted, she could become a professional artist. The collector's reaction predicted what millions of people would later come to experience when confronted with Grandma Moses' art: freshness, authenticity, and hope.

Little by little, her work found its way into exhibitions and galleries, initially with other artists and later alone. When Grandma Moses became famous, she was well into her eighties. Day after day, she continued to produce new paintings with an energy that few other artists could match. 

Her compositions portray the joy of purposeful human activity

Her canvasses frequently ignore the classical rules of perspective, but are filled with colour and charm. Each of Grandma Moses' paintings is an affirmation of the pleasures of simplicity. Unaffected by her success, she continued to produce new works well beyond her 101st birthday.

If you are convinced that prejudice, age, or any other factor are denying you opportunities, you might be right, but that's beside the point. The question has to be formulated in a different manner: What are you going to do to circumvent obstacles and improve your situation? More often than not, a path to success can be found.

Should you consider your circumstances too distressing, the work of Grandma Moses might provide you the inspiration you need. See if you can get some colour posters of her paintings. Place the posters on your kitchen wall and let their optimism change your mood. 

Life and happiness are less complicated than they seem

You wake up in the morning, you stay alert, and seize opportunities as they come. The message from Grandma Moses is reflected in her compositions: a world full of light that has little need of shadows.

Discouragement and complaints are dead-end projects that you shouldn't pursue. Those who are busy moving forward have no time for lamentations. Immobility keeps you down, but action generates opportunities. The tide will turn today: don't miss it.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


Image by generationD3 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under

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