[from Anne Truitt’s Daybook: The Journal of an Artist, 1982; quoted in May Sarton’s At Seventy: A Journal, 1984]
I went straight to the Rembrandt self-portrait, painted when he was fifty-three, my age. He looked straight out at me, and I looked straight in at him.
There is a sort of shame in naked pain. I used to see it in my patients when I was working in psychology and nursing. They found it more seemly, more expedient to pull over themselves thin coverlets of talk. There is wisdom in this, an unselfish honor in bearing one’s burdens silently. But Rembrandt found a higher good worth the risk and painted himself as he knew himself, human beyond reprieve. He looks out from the position, without self-pity and without flourish, and lends me strength. . . .
Unless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding on to images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves. This indifference can be, in its extreme, a form of murder and seems to me a rather common phenomenon. We claim autonomy for ourselves and forget that in so doing we can fall into the tyranny of defining other people as we would like them to be. By focusing on what we choose to acknowledge in them, we impose an insidious control on them. . . . The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery.