When i was visiting the exhibition of the works of Jean Francois Millet in the van Goghmuseum in Amsterdam i was again grabbed by the painting 'The Glaneuses' with the beautiful colorcomposition. The subdued primary colors of the headdresses of the gleaners are enchanting! Of course this painting is mend to be a sad story about the poverty of the French lower classes in the 19th C.
But suddenly while looking and thinking about this painting there came a Daoist story in my mind of the Daoist Liezi who lived around 400 BC in China.
His story about an old Gleaner in China goes as follows:
When Lin Lei was almost a hundred years old, he went out one day to pick up left over grains while singing when he walked through the fields. Confucius who was on his way to Wei saw him on the plain. He turned to his disciples and said: That old man there looks like he could be an interesting man to talk with. Somebody should go to him to listen what he has to tell! Zigong went and engaged Lin Lei at the end of a dike. He looked straight at him and asked with a sigh: Doesn't it give you sadness to walk around singing and have to pick up grains? Lin Lei didn't stop walking and went on singing. Zigong had to repeat his question for a long time till Lin Lei looked up and answered: What should give me sadness? On that Zigong said: When you, master, were young you learned not to work hard, when you were already a grown up you didn't strive for a high position in society, at you old age you had to live without wife and children and the moment of your death is coming near. What kind of luck did you experience to pick up grains and singing? Lin Lei had to laugh and said: The reasons why I feel happines are the same as for all humans, only that it will be for the others, reasons to be preoccupied about it. It is exactly because I didn't learn in my youth to work hard and when I was a grownup I didn't strive for a high position that I became so old! It is exactly in my old age that I have no wife and children and because the time of my death is coming near that I could become so happy! "A long life is what people want and death they abhor" Zigong said. "How come that you find happiness in your death?" Lin Lei answered: Death relates to life like leaving relates to returning. It is thus possible to die here and be born somewhere else. How can I know if life and death are both not as good? How can I know if it is not a mistake to keep thight on life so restless? How can I know if my coming death is not better than my previous life? Zigong listened, but he didn't understand the meaning of this. He went back to Confucius and told him what he heard. Confucius said: I knew he was an interesting man and it turned out to be so. He is as well somebody who found (it), but not complete.
So you see...you can look to the same subject from different angles!