Date night is a rare occurrence in our home, so when Justin and I had the chance to get discounted theater tickets and free babysitting, we jumped at the opportunity. Sunday in the Park with George is a Steven Sondheim musical that pulls its inspiration from the Georges Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte.
While we did enjoy our night out and the production, what was most encouraging to me was our conversation afterwards. The second song in the play, “Color and Light,” pits the artist Seurat against his lover Dot as she laments wanting to go to a show while he is obsessed with his painting and his need to finish the hat.
Then in one of the final numbers, “Move On,”, Dot remarks that what mattered was that she made a choice, not what the choice was. The choice she made was to leave Seurat to be with the stable-but-dull baker. While she loved Seurat, he was constantly working and neglected her in pursuit of his art. She then encourages the young artist to simply move on, make a choice, any choice will do.
In our fast paced world today, I think the temptation for all of us is to “finish the hat.” We obsess over the task at hand, convinced that we must complete it whatever the cost. Unfortunately, the reality for most of us is that it’s not just one hat we’re trying to finish, but a whole haberdashery.
But is the only important thing simply to make a choice, any choice, even if that choice means leaving someone we love and settling for comfort? But it isn’t any better to continue to finish our hat regardless of the effect on those we love, is it? Shouldn’t there be a better way? What if there is a better way? Can we work together to choose those things which are most important, being willing to leave some hats unfinished?
Yes, I, for one, am grateful that Seurat did finish that magnificent painting. But was it worth the price of losing the one he loved? I have hats of my own that need to be finished — my family needs food to eat and clean clothes to wear (and this post needs finishing, too). But while I do have a choice, not just any choice will do. I do have a choice, and the content of that choice matters. I can finish the hat on my time table, regardless of the consequences. Or I can choose the things that matter most and order my life accordingly.
What hats are you trying so hard to finish? Are there things you are neglecting in the process? How do we make the right choice, not just any choice, but what matters most? Let me encourage you to think about the choices we make, why we make them, and that, sometimes, that hat can stay unfinished, if even just for the moment.
Perhaps that’s what was most encouraging to me in thinking about the play and the painting. Those are people in the painting — people with wants, needs, feelings. That’s what matters.