Saturday, August 27, 2005

creation through death

this week i've been revisiting a text i read last year in a class at mhgs. the author is a french, feminist, postmodern weaver of language and ideas. the book is three steps on the ladder of writing. in it she introduces the creative process as needing of death:

"writing is learning to die. it's learning not to be afraid, in other words to live at the extremity of life, which is what the dead, death, give us... to be human we need to experience the end of the world. we need to lose the world... without that we know nothing about the mortality and immortality we carry. we don't know we're alive as long as we havn't encountered death: these are the banalities that have been erased. and it is an act of grace...that is grace: death given, then taken back."

the call is to let human brokenness impact one's art to result in work that is more raw, more terrifying, more beautiful, more human, more real. this is why "christian art" whether in painting, music or novels often seem flat and inauthentic. the christian vision is not just beautiful- for it is so only in contrast to the aweful yet necessary darkness of its context. this is why i have been so drawn to the creative work of novelist flannery o'connor, and musician david bazan. as artists, how can we be more honest with our faith, with our world and with our gifts? perhaps entering our brokenness to encounter death is a step in the right dirrection.

9 comments:

Flyin J said...

kid, where you been. I've been callin you for like a week. Much more and I will qualify as a stalker.

Lian said...

Really challenging point. It's so difficult for me to be truly honest to the point of sacrifice. I find there's a pressure to SEEM honest by writing edgier work, discussing a topic that is "hot" or writing in a terser, more contemporary style - it's almost the opposite of what you would expect "honesty" to entail, I suppose. Frequently, I give in to the temptation - losing the joy and transformational power of what I do in the process - simply because I am not willing to burn out for truth. I am scared to death to reveal myself completely - not because I'm afraid of shocking anyone - but because I'm afraid of boring someone or being seen as an artistic fossil. I'm afraid of failure.

I heard a great metaphor about this: a writer is seated next to her tent, scribbling some notes by the light of a candle. She notices that moths, attracted by the light, keep fluttering into the flame and catching on fire. Each time it happens, the light of the candle is doubled and she is able, for a few seconds, to see what she is doing so much better until the moth falls black and lifeless onto the ground.
This is the work of the artist. As we are inexorably drawn to the light of truth we cannot buzz around in its glow. Our work is to fly directly into that flame so that, by the light of our burning bodies, the world will, at least for a moment, see clearer.

Lian said...

PS: Exhibitionism can be just as thick a shield - just as sly an evasion - as propriety and convention.

Kistenichs said...

Hi Phil,
We like your blog a lot! It is great to see how well you can put your thoughts on 'paper' and it's also a lot of fun to see pix of you three.
So we thought we should have a blog as well and I took some time yesterday to start one.
its name is austrianadventure.
hugs to you, Ruth and Sylas
DK

elnellis said...

chad, thanks for your insightful comment. i love the metaphore and description of the role of the artist in the community that you call me to. i too, jump at any opportunity to less than what i should...

velozitolento said...

Hello Friend

pedro said...

I would agree with Hélène Cixous about humanity needing to face death, for in living as we were not already dead, we deceive ourselves. This deception of self and other creates alienation (regardless of whether "other" is God or man). I would also agrea that grace is death given and death taken back, for redemption could not happen without death. Christ died for us, and we die to self. My struggle remains how to conceoive of and engage the process (traditionally termed "sanctification") of moving from death to life in a genuine, living, evolving sense - and to do that while perpetually dying to self and while entering the places of death in which others live in order to counter self deception.

pedro said...

p.s. the moth metaphor is (I believe) from Annie Dillard, a great author whose literature I would recommend.

elnellis said...

thanks for your words pedro. i have always enjoyed the way your mind works and how you deliver language. (if you had a blog i'd read it every day...) thanks for stopping by.