There is a wonderful painting by James Ensor, a Belgian painter who lived across the nineteenth and twentieth century. The painting is called “Christ Calming the Storm”. It represents Jesus calming a storm which caught him and his disciples by surprise, while crossing the Sea of Galilee. The turbulent sea and sky are reproduced with an impressionistic jumble of colours, which gives you the feeling of danger, anxiety and confusion. Then, not in the centre but almost at the bottom right corner of the painting, is Jesus standing in a little fragile boat, emitting a faint light, which radiates through the squall surrounding him. The light does not seem enough to win over the storm completely, but it is perhaps sufficiently strong to survive it, creating a feeling of suspense.
I find it a beautiful analogy of life. In particular, of those dark moments when you are stuck and there is no apparent answer or hope for the future to change. Regardless how bad a situation can be, I can always find in me sufficient light to hang on to and face all adversities, survive them, and still be sure that tomorrow the sun comes up again (to cite a friend of mine). I imagine everyone has their own personal light. Mine is my family and friends. I try not to take them for granted and recognize that this light must be fuelled every single day in life.
I don’t necessarily think of it as an easy task, for someone to find his own light. It takes time and dedication, and it goes hand in hand with finding a clear purpose in life. A purpose that characterizes the person I am, even to the point that it defines my own identity. It becomes part of me in such a way that pursuing it every day is already a wonderful achievement, while not pursuing it would simply mean to short-change myself. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky once wrote, the mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.
Pietro Bonizzi, Assistant Professor at Data Science and Knowledge Engineering