Wednesday, January 28, 2015

No Fast Food Lane for Soul

“Hurry ruins saints as well as artists.”  ~ Thomas Merton

Real art cannot merely reflect the outer world; it must depict some part of the artist’s inner world, otherwise the work lacks depth or heart impact. 

“Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and the inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.”  ~ Edward Hopper

Heart of the Artist

Say you’re having guests over to your home for dinner – not just any guests – special guests. Would you dream of driving through Mickey D’s takeout for happy meals?

You’d sit down and take the time to plan and prepare a proper feast and serve your very best. So writers, think of your readers as special guests who are entering the heart of your inner world.

As Karen Blixen, author of Babette’s Feast and Other Anecdotes of Destiny puts it: 
“Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist:
Give me a chance to do my best. “ 

Speaking of Babette’s Feast, while the work is classified as a short story or novella, there is no shortage of meaning to be found in Blixen’s masterpiece: a powerful and poignant tale about sacrifice, communion, repentance, epiphany, and transformation.

I’ve heard it said that the protagonist, Babette Hersant, is an archetype of Christ, for she so readily sacrifices all that she has for those she is serving, and feeds not only their bodies, but their souls (as all artists/writers must do).

Discovery of Meaning

Not that Blixen, or any writer, consciously sets out to weave in layers of meaning, but if the work comes from a deeper place within, and isn’t just manufactured in the cerebral realm, it will likely contain multiple layers of meaning.

Take, for instance, Stephen King’s novella, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” from his story collection, Different Seasons. Within that one story runs concurrent themes: light overcomes darkness; perseverance against all odds; loyalty and friendship; bold defiance of evil…

Finding beauty in the midst of hell; hope springs eternal (which is the subtitle), and the list could go on. Therein lies the difference between mediocrity and art. If the work nourishes the reader’s soul, it has served its purpose.

And if you are to serve your purpose as artist (or saint), take your time. Let the work have space to incubate and fully develop, as a child matures in the womb. As a garden produces ripe fruit in its time.

Having begun with the words of Merton, I’ll end there too. “People are in a hurry to magnify themselves by imitating what is popular – and too lazy to think of anything better.”

What lies within you?

What are your top three most inspiring stories or films, the ones that held the most transformative power for you? Take a moment to ponder why these stories moved you.

Then, choose just one of these (your # 1), and explain why it stirred or awakened you. Whatever you see there is only a mirror of what is already within you, waiting to be unveiled in some shape or form. 
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