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April 2014 - The Writer Speaks

It is a difficult, demanding hunger - the need to create. One must fill the senses with the sense of exhilaration, even joy, in the fulfillment of the creative vision. And yet, at the same time, the eyes must remain focused on living the routine of life, the ears must stay open to the minute sounds of the mundane, that supposedly banal portion of life which contains the bounties of blessings that more than feed the senses of the artist: they nourish them.

Descartes believed that reason alone will get a man to the truth; he also fervently thought that the human will could rule over passions and fervent emotions. I disagree with those opinions. Reason has its rightful place in dominating fear and fatuous thinking. I nonetheless follow far more closely along the lines of Pascal who knew without a doubt that intuition cast the truer light on truth and permitted man to at least live in concert, and not at war, with his passions and feelings.

Nicolas Boileau took the doctrinal groundwork of Cartesian thinking further and applied it to art! While I am a fan of Boileau’s literary principles and criticism, I strongly disagree with his conclusion in “Art poétique” that the purpose of art is the search for truth using reason as a primary tool. The purpose of art does reside in reaching for truth, poetic truth (and thus beauty), but reason plays a pitiful role in that quest. Instinct, intuition, even divine inspiration -- they are the potent instruments of the artist.

How then does a writer arrive at the epiphany? How does the creative mind become aware of those moments sublime but subtle? Ah! The great mystery cannot and should not be explained. It occurs within the dark cloisters and radiant halls of the mind, within fears and doubts and whispers of tomorrow. It nestles deep within the slow, unthinking, unblinking smile of the writer as she listens to an anecdote told by an elderly man explaining the origin of the thistle tattoo on his forearm. Long ago there was a girl in Glasgow. I met her during the war and fell in love.

The art is not made quickly, if it is made at all. When art is spun from golden threads and silently transformed within the mind from base metals into the noble and precious metals -- we speak of the sublime, the exquisite, the royal art that still remains a mystery. But the art has become completed. No longer is it grappled with and subdued by reason, instinct, and intuition and thereby released into the higher plane of thought, the celestial arc of emotion.

The mystery of art is born of the mystery of life. Dare we look too closely into the mystery and risk analysis -- that force of will which can render anything into discrete, finite parts and divisible quantities? Analysis will kill all that the mystery inspires. Better to leave such thinking to philosophers.

One need not go in search of the primary materials: they come to the artist as certainly and blessedly as the torrents of spring running to the sea. Within those torrents, within the eternal spring are the fount of life -- and art.


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