Today I walked through A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. My very own landscape of lounging people. When I see the picture in the museum I long to be inside it. I wonder how I can go there, where the places are that people go to lay, and read, and watch the birds on the water, and push little sailboats with sticks. Those people know how to live, I think. Where can I go to live that way? I ask myself—please—render a vision of ducks and ponds and little sailboats and sticks.
These places are not created, they emerge by accident. Or cosmic purpose, but with no human force. A scattering of people on picnic blankets, humming to each other as they lay their heads in each others’ laps, this scene is the blooming of humanity. It is our flower, our fruit, our flourishing of beauty that has no purpose other than the fact that all else would be meaningless without it. When the right light, and the right sounds, and the right textures merge, what a human does is have a picnic. They sit and snack, and then lay down when the back aches, and drift into daydreams, guided by the clouds and the breeze, and the children and the dog in the playground.
Ask yourself if you have any choice but to do the same. And if you have the opportunity but don’t lay down in the grass, recognize that you do so only with the deepest reluctance, that you would truly rather not leave behind the Sunday afternoon, and that you are under the influence of some evil force taking you away from the best expression of us. In the Rubaiyat the truth was sung: “A book of verse beneath the bough / a jug of wine, a loaf of bread—and thou.”