When Donna first sees this picture, she wonders if this is how her brother, Vincent, envisioned his future self as an old philosopher-type or if it was the old philosopher who always lived inside of him, always trying to figure out “what it’s all about.” In the following short excerpt from chapter three of The Bird that Sang in Color, Vincent tells Donna of his decision to study philosophy in college.
I looked on top of Vincent’s desk to see a textbook entitled Plato’s Republic, which must have been related to his major, philosophy. I asked him why he chose that as a major, and he said, “I just want to find out what it’s all about.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I get to study these old-time philosophers who wrote about what it’s all about. Life, that is.” He went on naming a bunch of them and said Aristotle was his favorite.
“He had a lot to say about a lot of things, like happiness. He thought it should be like the main goal in life.”
Decades later, Donna meets a man who is a philosophy professor at her old college and she tells him about Vincent.
“He was also a philosophy major in college, and I wanted, so badly for him, to become a professor and that’s why when Randi told me that you were one, I just knew I had to meet you.” I smiled and felt young for a quick second.
“Well, I’m so glad you did.” He said. “Did Vincent not want to teach philosophy then?”
“I don’t think so. He said he studied philosophy because he wanted to find out what it’s all about. Life that is.”
“Did he ever find out?” he said, smiling.
“I actually think he already knew.” His face lit up, and he prompted me to tell him more. “He didn’t care so much about what society said about how you should live your life. He didn’t look to the outside for happiness. He lived from the inside. He was a painter, a scholar, and a musician. His paintings never hung in any galleries. His name isn’t in any scholarly publications, and he never performed for any audiences. He didn’t have to. He knew the real joy and richness that came from learning and creating, and that was enough for him.”
This post is part of my latest blog series on the artwork that inspired the family saga, The Bird that Sang in Color. The art featured in these posts comes from a sketchbook that belonged to my brother, Vincent, which I discovered shortly after his death. It had pictures he’d drawn of himself throughout various phases of his life. This pictorial autobiography caused me to wonder what pictures I’d have of myself by the end of my life, which motivated me to live more fully. In writing this novel, I was able to share this powerful realization with the world. This novel is the third book in the Greco Family books. Each one of these novels is told from a different family member’s point of view. This one is told from the perspective of the Greco family matriarch, Donna.
Grace Mattioli is the author of the Greco Family books, including Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees, Discovery of an Eagle, and The Bird that Sang in Color. These books are available from all major online book sellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.