Thursday, June 02, 2005


One thing I don't think people talk about enough is that art--or specifically literature--if it's worth anything at all, is a thing of the soul. It may be witty, dazzlingly original, it may be a page turner; but if it doesn't in some way unlock the mystery of what it means to be alive on this earth, what's the point? We may enjoy it, we may admire it, but if we don't need it, it's just taking up space on a very crowded book shelf. With something like 400,000 books a year being published, I for one, only have time for the books I need.

What I found most interesting about Spengler's quote which I featured in the post called "the beautiful and the good" was his emphasis on the artist, not the art. In his view, it doesn't matter so much that the characters in a novel are humble or good or courageous, but that their creator is those things. A writer in possession of those rare virtues can enter the darkest regions of the human heart intrepidly. His or her own goodness cannot help but illuminate the night.

The mystic, Meister Eckhart, said this:

"A person who wishes to produce anything good should be like a man who draws a circle. Let him get the center in the right place and keep it so that the circumference will be good. In other words, let a man first learn to fix his heart on God and then whatever he creates will have virtue. But if a man's heart is unsteady, even the great things he does will be of little value."

And he also said this:

I never ask God to give himself to me. I ask him to purify, to empty me. If I am empty, God by his very nature is obliged to fill me.

How to be pure? By steadfast longing for the one good. How to acquire this longing? By self-denial. Self-knowledge is the way, for creatures are all nothing. They come to nothing through lamentations and bitterness.

Was he talking to writers and artists? To those who have ears to listen, the answer is clear.


Joel said...

Many people don't talk about art in anything but a superficial way or attempt to analyze it in the manner which was taught to them by their high school and college teachers. Most people don't live their writing: they read newspapers and let that determine what they should talk about.

Most writing about emotion, I feel, fails to convey the subtlety of what is being felt by the author. Many don't do it on blog -- maybe out of fear, maybe because they think it is boring. But I find this the most fascinating writing of all, even when the thoughts are badly registered.

Pradeep Nair said...

Thanks from dropping by my blog. Your blog is interesting. Hope to come back to it frequently. The point you noted about writing is quite interesting.

A writer has to be extremely communicative. It is not really about the words used as much as about the way these words are mixed together to make sentences. And in the same way sentences arranged to make paragraphs...

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