I have painted a version of a detail from Van Gogh’s ‘the Sower’ (1888) He did a number of versions of the painting, which according to the Van Gogh museum website, may have been inspired by a Japanese print. Another version 'Sower with setting sun' was inspired by Jean-François Millet's 'Sower' from 1850 (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts)
He painted this whilst in living in Arles. It expresses his identification with ordinary people - particulalry with the rural poor.
The sower is an obvious Biblical image. It all started with a story of a Garden, with seed bearing plants (Gen 1:11). It hints of the cosmic cycle of life:
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater… (Isaiah 55:10)
The Parable of the Sower also comes to mind (eg Matt 13) and the various conditions where seed grows and thrives, or withers and dies.
I have just been at a faith2share consultation in India: ‘we believe faith is to be shared’ We have been talking about sowing seeds of faith around the world and are engaged in making plans together. It reminded me of the Wisdom of Solomon:
If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. God's ways are as hard to discern as the pathways of the wind, and as mysterious as a tiny baby being formed in a mother's womb. Be sure to stay busy and plant a variety of crops, for you never know which will grow - perhaps they all will. (Ecclesiastes 11:4-6)
It applies to project planning as well as gardening. To plan and plant lots of ideas and deeds and to wait and see what grows and develops. There is a certain unpredictability about it. Part of the mystery of life.
Frederick von Schiller's poem 'The sower' picks up on the 'seeds' and the 'deeds' being one
Sure of the spring that warms them into birth,
The golden seeds thou trustest to the earth;
And dost thou doubt the eternal spring sublime,
For deeds--the seeds which wisdom sows in time
In Van Gogh’s world, sowing seeds is an expression of faith, for it is from little seeds that beautiful sunflowers do grow - maybe for Van Gogh, a symbol of all that is good.
Sowing seed is an ultimate act of faith. It is planting hope.