Thursday, December 18, 2014

Originality Is Not a Biblical Notion

I’m going to begin this, the third instalment of my meditations on art, by quoting a poem by CS Lewis. It’s titled “A Confession.”
Take that, TS Eliot.
I am so coarse, the things the poets see
Are obstinately invisible to me.
For twenty years I’ve stared my level best
To see if evening–any evening–would suggest
A patient etherized upon a table;
In vain. I simply wasn’t able.
To me each evening looked far more
Like the departure from a silent, yet a crowded, shore
Of a ship whose freight was everything, leaving behind
Gracefully, finally, without farewells, marooned mankind.

Red dawn behind a hedgerow in the east
Never, for me, resembled in the least
A chilblain on a cocktail-shaker’s nose;
Waterfalls don’t remind me of torn underclothes,
Nor glaciers of tin-cans. I’ve never known
The moon look like a hump-backed crone–
Rather, a prodigy, even now
Not naturalized, a riddle glaring from the Cyclops’ brow
Of the cold world, reminding me on what a place
I crawl and cling, a planet with no bulwarks, out in space.

Never the white sun of the wintriest day
Struck me as un crachat d’estaminet.
I’m like that odd man Wordsworth knew, to whom
A primrose was a yellow primrose, one whose doom
Keeps him forever in the list of dunces,
Compelled to live on stock responses,
Making the poor best that I can
Of dull things . . . peacocks, honey, the Great Wall, Aldebaran,
Silver weirs, new-cut grass, wave on the beach, hard gem,
The shapes of horse and woman, Athens, Troy, Jerusalem.
*

Gregory Wilbur is my favourite modern composer. He writes song tunes which I find beautiful and intelligible, and since his CD My Cry Ascends, a collection of psalms and hymns set to lilting, Celtic-influenced melodies, crossed my radar more than a year ago, I've been listening to it over and over again. After a year’s more or less continuous play, it seems unlikely to pall on me.

Wilbur has a “Music Philosophy” page on his website containing his artist’s credo. Part of it reads: “I believe that originality is not a Biblical notion.”

I agree with him.

*

HT: Great Writers Steal
This is a hard thing to say. It may be a hard thing for you to hear. Originality is in some ways the gold standard of modern art—even of the popular stuff, the bestsellers and blockbusters. After all, we feel that art should add something new to the world. We love nonconformity. We want to see things we’ve never seen before. We want to be surprised. We love plot twists and hate spoilers. Our hankering for the newfangled drives the success of cultural phenomena like Harry Potter. If the public hadn’t known that JK Rowling finished every book with a shocking character death, would buyers have lined up at the stores first thing in the morning to grab the newest release? (At least, that was in Australia; perhaps in the US they turned up the night before). Or if George RR Martin’s fans didn’t laud him for abandoning tired concepts of heroism, idealism, and virtue in favour of unpredictability, realism, and amorality, would he be the most highly-respected fantasy author of the decade?

Wace and Layamon would have sunk like stones in such an artistic marketplace. These Middle English authors have left their names to the history of English letters as the authors of two alliterative poems that tell the same legendary history of Britain and King Arthur, based on the same chronicler, Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur constantly punctuates his story with the refrain, “as the French book telleth.”

Shakespeare wrote thirty-eight plays. Only two of them—The Tempest and Love’s Labour’s Lost—have plots he invented himself.

*

Seriously, how do you beat this?
Originality leads to cultural inflation: it debases the currency of art. I once read an article in the Huffington Post, that dreary bastion of radicalism, which wondered how Beethoven’s music, considered transgressive and shocking at the time of its composition, lost its rockstar appeal. The answer, of course, is that someone a little more transgressive, a little more original, even more boldly dissonant than Beethoven appeared, and so by easy steps we degenerated to John Cage on one hand, and Freddie Mercury on the other.

Those who make a name for shock value are doomed to be abandoned once someone more shocking comes along. If originality is the litmus test of quality, then the race is on; who can be most outrageous?

*

Gregory Wilbur argues that the Bible makes less of a case for originality, than for craftsmanship. “The difference is taking those things which have been done before and re-shaping and re-structuring.” He cites Mary’s Magnificat in the second chapter of Like as “a compendium of phrases and concepts from the Psalms and other OT passages...recombined and refashioned into a song of praise that fit the occasion.” Similarly, the Christian composer JS Bach “took established forms, ideas, melodies, and studies from other composers and crafted them into greater and deeper works than before.”

The purpose, and the tendency, of originality is to displace what came before, not to celebrate and build upon it.

Wilbur explains, “The modern concept of originality serves the individual by being different or standing out instead of entering the stream of God’s good providence as displayed by His faithful servants in the past and to learn from them and expand their work into deeper realms.”

*

Why?

Why do it differently?

When it’s already been done so well? Who needs to reinvent the wheel? Who needs to break the mould?

I'm sure there are other ways of building churches, but we don't talk about them on Vintage Novels because they aren't this pretty.

I’m not saying innovation and invention are bad things here. What I’m doing is arguing for an alien mindset. Artists have trained themselves to look for ways to be 

~*~different.~*~

What I want to encourage is a mindset more skeptical of change for change’s sake. A mindset that seeks, not ways to be different, but ways to be the same.

So. Answer the question.

Why must you do it differently?

You can do it if you must, but you need to convince me. I want syllogisms. Use the back of the paper to show your working. Marks will be awarded to arguments that are clear, logical, theological, and respectful of elders and betters.

*

What is the purpose of Christian art?

The purpose of Christian art is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.

How does Christian art achieve this end?
Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:
That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.
In Christian discipleship, the audience may change. The tellers may change.

The story never changes.

*

CS Lewis said in his poem that he was “compelled to live on stock responses.” His poem—and many of his writings, like The Abolition of Man—rebuked the yearning toward originality. To Lewis, originality was not merely an impediment to the purpose of art; it was in direct conflict with the purpose of art. For Lewis, as for many others, the purpose of art was to train the affections of its audience toward the good, the true, and the beautiful. Humanity being naturally sinful, naturally (in the medieval litany) “greedy, immoral, impious, ignorant, and slothful,” does not naturally respond to good, true, and beautiful things with reverence, submission, and love. It must be trained.

Originality interferes with this process. Originality looks for new stories to tell. Originality hates stock responses, and thus it insists on making the beautiful appear ugly and the ugly appear beautiful. It insists on meddling with categories of good and evil, true and false.

Originality gives us stories in which villains turn out to be misunderstood heroes. Originality gives us Hollywood movies purportedly based on Scripture, which cast God as childlike and vindictive, and His prophets as bigoted and mentally ill.

Stock responses, by contrast, set objective things before us and demand our submission to a reality we cannot control, edit, or reinterpret to suit our own ends.

While we're at it, here, have a library.

*

Our fathers’ suspicion of originality manifested in a reluctance to tell new stories. Here I become a little self-serving. I have often meditated upon the fact that my own novel is basically Arthurian fan-fiction. I am attempting to get over a feeling of inadequacy on that account. I am not God. I do not create; I subcreate. I must begin by copying God; surely it is a logical progression to go on and copy my fellow-men, especially when the story is a tapestry to which many better men than I have contributed over the course of centuries.

Medieval art—anonymous, self-effacing, and craftsmanlike as it was—evinced a truly remarkable flight from originality. In his essay The Genesis of a Medieval Book CS Lewis explains:
The characteristic activity of the medieval—perhaps especially the Middle English—author is precisely “touching up” something that was already there. And this something may itself be the “touching up” of something earlier... The beginnings of this process—if it had a beginning any more definite than daylight has each morning—is often lost to us. Hence we might equally well call our medieval authors the most unoriginal or the most original of men. They are so unoriginal that they hardly ever attempt to write anything unless someone has written it before. They are so rebelliously and insistently original that they can hardly reproduce a page of any older work without transforming it by their own intensely visual and emotional imagination, turning the abstract into the concrete, quickening the static into turbulent movement, flooding whatever was colourless with scarlet and gold.
In other words, the medievals wrote the same way Mary wrote her great song: taking elements of what had gone before and remixing them into more of the same.

*

I am not arguing for plagiarism. The medievals were always honest about where they got their materials, and generous in their own turn. Rather, I am arguing that the needs of the Kingdom and the purpose of Christian art is best served by an attitude that seeks to produce more of the same rather than something different.

Nor do I argue that Christian art should go right on doing what it’s doing at the moment. No, I think Christian art is in a parlous state. I think we have embraced originality and Enlightenment categories of thought and sold our birthrights for a pot of message. I think we need to do an about-face. We need to look at the great Christian art that has gone before, and we need to use it like a medieval craftsman would: both copying and improving. We need to look at the blueprint for our culture, God's Word, and seek to apply it to more and more areas of our life; but the blueprint itself never changes, nor what it teaches.

*

This is something I struggle with. I read a story and think, "I can tell just how this is going to end. I've read this before." "Oh look, another sweet picture of a mother reading to her child." "I bet that this tune will have a shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits after it." I think it's worth cultivating a taste for exactly these kinds of things. As GK Chesterton so astutely observed,
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. 
Put another way, what woman, sitting down to a romance novel, is ever disappointed by the wedding at the end? One knows exactly what one is in for--and actually, it's a shame that only the romance novel industry deals in foregone conclusions these days. It takes humility and contentment to exult in these unsurprising things.

Waterhouse, for example, has never seemed particularly daring to me. But one likes him that way, doesn't one?
So I'd really love to encourage you all to stop feeling that little twinge of guilt for making or experiencing art that isn't Stunningly Original. Stop feeling like having seen it all before is a bad thing. The real difference between bad art and good art, is just that: whether it's true good and beautiful, or whether it's evil, ugly, and lying.

And, the beautiful thing about goodness?

Goodness is no small thing. There is always a "further up and further in" to explore. Doing "more of the same" isn't going to limit us; not when 'the same' is...infinite.

23 comments:

Rachel Heffington said...

Where DO your brains come from? I'm humbled and astonished again. Good head on your shoulders, Suzannah. On that note, I think a different form of the same is in order. You know...a tweaking of the old so it appears new. But what you said about the philosophy of originality undermining the good and being but a one shocking thing that will be superseded by another more shocking thing...it is so true.

Unknown said...

One point (and one of very points) where I disagree with Lewis is his take on T. S. Eliot. I love Eliot. There's a lot going on in his poems, and many of them draw heavily from Dante and such.

For instance, here is his amazing poem, On the Cultivation of Christmas Trees.
http://deefrank.tripod.com/tseliot.html

-Kate

Kim Marsh said...

This is probably one subject where there are as many good arguments pro as there are contra. It is good to be reassured that originality is not the be all and end all of creativity. But I think that all artists modify work that they have set out to copy for a variety of reasons from their own taste or their own understanding of a piece to their own competence at recreating the original. I am not sure that all innovative artists are deliberately shocking either they may merely feel that an original approach is necessary to convey their message.
yours Kim

Anna Ilona Mussmann said...

There is a difference between the quest for novelty and the quest to say something in one's own (and therefore unique) voice, though, isn't there? I would say that much of literature uses classic forms and formats, but also shows originality in presenting some angle of humanity/life in a way we might not have thought about it before, so that we can better understand humanity and life. Writing that merely imitates *other people's writing* tends not to say much. A writer, even a genre or fanfic writer, who distills life for him or herself can provide something new in the same way a new voice in a conversation can point out something no one else as noticed. Perhaps this is analogous to painting from photographs (easier to copy) and painting from life (harder, and more lifelike).

Yvette Willemse said...

I agree that the search for novelty at the expense of all else is debasing to good art. But perhaps originality could be defined clearer. I agree with Anna above. Also, God did not make us all carbon copies of one another. As the ultimate Creator of all things, he has made each and every one of us different from one another, and that is one of his many glories. One of the real horrors of totalitarian states is that everyone is forced to conform, to become the same as the next man. Our ability to create (and this is indeed but a pale imitation of God's ability to create) and our ability to speak in our own voice is one of the facets of being made in God's image. I do not think we have to struggle to be different, or force ourselves to be novel, and thus sacrifice all the good things of art. I think rather that if we seek to be true to the God who made us, we will be true to how He made us - and our art will be perceptibly distinctive. There is a place for the probing mode of thought that is so often described as "original".

And like so many things I write, I read back over that paragraph and think: "That made no sense."
Never mind, lol.

Anna Ilona Mussmann said...

(Sorry for the typos in my first comment).

I wonder, though, if I am just stumbling over vocabulary. How do you define originality?

Suzannah said...

Ooh! Much discussion :). Lovely!

Rachel: My first impulse is to tell you I have no brains, only a lot of other people's thoughts (in this case, Lewis, Wilbur, et al) which I have the ability to remix. Which is sort of what this post is about :).

Kate: Yes, you introduced me to that poem a while ago, and I adore his cat poetry. Still working up to coming to grips with his other stuff. But I think he and CS Lewis buried the hatchet eventually?

Kim, Anna, Yvette--yes, as I say, innovation is not a bad thing, and the point of taking what you already have is to remix what you get. There's definitely a balance between being made in the image of God and thus bound to glorify Him through doing His will, versus being made in the image of God and thus having the authority to subcreate (as Yvette points out)(Hi, Yvette!).

So for these purposes I would not define originality the same way as innovation...in the way in which Wilbur uses it, and the way in which I use it here, originality is primarily an attempt to be different for the sake of being different; it sees difference as a good end in itself, rather than something that serves bigger artistic goals.

Modern originality may be defined as that progressivist worldview that sees new things as better than old things, and progress as good no matter where it goes. That is different to a view like, eg, Tolkien's, who spoke of the "leaf-mould of the mind" where stories go, break down, and are revived into something else. The difference is between contempt for the past and honour for the past.

I'm sorry if I needed to make that clearer in the article itself. It was an unspoken assumption :).

Yvette Willemse said...

Thanks, that makes things clearer. Hi Suzannah. I'm procrastinating on my writing, lol ... I have a deadline in, like, three weeks ... thanks for the read.

hopeinbrazil said...

I've written a few rough drafts on beauty & the arts for my book blog, but am still polishing them up.Thanks so much for giving me more food for thought. Loved the C.S. Lewis poem.

Joseph J. said...

Excellent post.

I think wealth and materialism have a lot to do with our relentless drive for novelty. The love of novelty is the disease of the spoiled, the comfortable, and the gluttonous. Spoiled and over-sated people seek superficial and intense thrills, which must be ever-varying, instead of going deep into a work of art, dwelling on it, meditating on it, sharing it, imitating it, and letting it nourish the heart. True appreciation of anything requires virtue, it requires simplicity, focus, and discipline. The world of modern art and entertainment will continue to be endlessly inventive and increasingly unsatisfying so long as the trend towards complexity continues. Only when this strange period of unnatural comfort disappears and we return to the state of hard, natural living, will we be able to appreciate art again. After all, if people don't appreciate life, how can they appreciate art?

I would love to create wonderful art, but I confess I sometimes find myself doubting the use of it. The artist not only wishes to create good art, but to have it appreciated by others. The most satisfying experience for a chef must be to create a meal for a hungry workman. Hard workers enjoy food more than fat aristocrats. If I pour my heart and soul into a work of art, who is there to enjoy it? It is so much water in the ocean.

I suppose I must remember that the process is itself a wonderful, enriching thing, and be happy with even the smallest appreciative audience.

Kim Marsh said...

Joseph, interesting comment. I like the chef illustration. I am a competent cook but I always bridle if anyone seeks to compliment me by calling me a chef because I see no comparison between my food based on traditional English,French and Italian recipes and the etoliated and over complicated creations of modern tv chefs and restaurants. I work knowing only that 98% of the time only one other person will taste and ( hopefully)appreciate what I have produced but that does not make the work any the less worthwhile. Whatever we do in life we.ourselves and our God will know whether it is performed with honest purpose or out of vanity,greed or any other desire. I cannot but disagree with your comment on going back to a simpler life. The leisure that modern life gives us is why we can contemplate art and read books and this blog! Incidentally without modern medical technology I would be dead.
regards Kim

PB said...

Great blog and discussion.

Suzannah, Anna, Yvette, et. al. - I will be unoriginal in echoing your comments a different way. Not only in art, but in life there is an extremely incessant push to be original (you may have read this example last year: http://huff.to/1zPVrK2). But as Christians know, we are already unique in God's eyes - so it's not a battle we need to fight. Which means - we are free not to worry about it.

In life, it doesn't matter if a total of 7 or 7 billion people like to butter their bread the same way we do. It's not about being either original or like everyone else. It's about being faithful to God's design for our lives. (And when we live faithfully, the curious thing is that we're often original in ways we don't intend to be). The same applies to our art - originality is not the goal, faithfulness is - which in the end will include (not as the goal, but as a result) a mix of what is unique and what is exactly like everyone else.

Joseph - Having lived in Papua New Guinea, I cannot agree with you. There is nothing unique to rich materialistic people about the relentless drive for novelty. There is an equally strong and equal unsatisfying drive for ever-varying thrills among the understated, uncomfortable, and hungry. It's called human nature.

As the good book puts it: "You must not act unjustly when deciding a case. Do not be partial to the poor or give preference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly." (Lev 19:15).

PB said...

Joseph - Also, I'd wager enjoying food has more to do with a) inborn preferences (nature) and b) the training of appetites (nurture), than with one's level of wealth or hunger. From my experience, I'd imagine in every culture and income level you'll find folks who are thoughtful eaters, folks who are scarfers, and those born among the latter who've been trained into the former.

As for extreme hunger, it lends itself more to scarfing than enjoying.

Yvette Willemse said...

I agree with your take on it, PB. I've never seen originality in this sense as un-Biblical - but there's no need to strive for it as if it were an achievement in its own right.

Joseph J. said...

My statements above, while partly true, were over-simplistic and over-generalized. The love of novelty for its own sake is indeed a human temptation, seen as often in the poor as in the wealthy. The difference is that the wealthy have a greater ability to indulge, although, admittedly, being likely better educated, they may also have better taste and discrimination. In any case, it may be that if neophilia (yes, that is a word) is an especially modern problem, it is because we have a greater ability than ever before, due to our wealth and technology, to indulge it, while simultaneously having an economic model that relentlessly stokes and encourages it. It seems that the wealth of the West, and all those that emulate us, is created by an economic system based on novelty – a cycle of harvesting, producing, selling, using, and dumping that is rapidly increasing in speed and quantity. It has damaged our ability to appreciate life, including art. We are increasingly cut off from nature, suspended in artificial environments, bewildered by intense stimuli and constant streams of complicated, irrelevant information. What I mean by ‘hard, natural living’ is not mere poverty (and certainly no reasonable person would want to simply ‘go back’), but a life of Christian virtue in sync with nature. In an environment of true peace and simplicity art can be appreciated at a deep level, and in a unified Christian society it can be meaningfully and harmoniously integrated into all areas of our life.

PB said...

Joseph - There is definitely an especially strong emphasis on novelty in our age, but by no means are we moderns alone in indulgence and excess:

Esther 1:
"1 These events took place during the days of Ahasuerus, who ruled 127 provinces from India to Cush. 2 In those days King Ahasuerus reigned from his royal throne in the fortress at Susa. 3 He held a feast in the third year of his reign for all his officials and staff, the army of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the officials from the provinces. 4 He displayed the glorious wealth of his kingdom and the magnificent splendor of his greatness for a total of 180 days.

5 At the end of this time, the king held a week-long banquet in the garden courtyard of the royal palace for all the people, from the greatest to the least, who were present in the fortress of Susa. 6 White and violet linen hangings were fastened with fine white and purple linen cords to silver rods on marble columns. Gold and silver couches were arranged on a mosaic pavement of red feldspar, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones.

7 Beverages were served in an array of gold goblets, each with a different design. Royal wine flowed freely, according to the king’s bounty 8 and no restraint was placed on the drinking. The king had ordered every wine steward in his household to serve as much as each person wanted. 9 Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women of King Ahasuerus’s palace."

PB said...

People are not made good by the absence or presence of stuff, but by a transformation of the heart. The poor widow with her two mites was as dear to Jesus as the wealthy tax-collecting Zacchaeus. Likewise, both rich and poor in the Bible reject God (ten lepers, rich young ruler, etc)

We know holiness cannot come from the outside. We know also that wealth does not make one evil (rather wealth is often a blessing in the OT). It must be our attitude to the much or little we have that matters.

A miser can live frugally and display none of the fruit of the spirit.

PB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margaret Sonnemann said...

Thank you!! A huge help and encouragement in my current dilemma of preparing for an exhibition of my work. x x :)

From "Art and The Bible," by Francis Schaeffer, but, I think, interesting in that he differentiates between Eliot's early and later works (see last paragraph though I've included more of the quote for context): "Yet, while there is no such thing as a godly or ungodly style, we must not be misled or naive in thinking that various styles have no relation whatsoever to the content of the message of the work of art. Styles themselves are developed as symbol systems or vehicles for certain world-views or messages. In the Renaissance, for example, one finds distinctively different styles from those which characterize art in the Middle Ages. It does not take much education in the history of art to recognize that what Filippo Lippi was saying about the nature of the Virgin Mary is different from what was being said in paintings done before the Renaissance. Art in the Renaissance became more natural and less iconographic. In our own day, men like Picasso and T. S. Eliot developed new styles in order to speak a new message.

There is a parallel in language itself. Sanskrit, I am told, developed as a perfect vehicle for Hindu philosophy. And I am told it is a very poor vehicle for the Christian message. As a matter of fact, I have heard some Sanskrit scholars say that they don’t think Christianity could ever be preached in Sanskrit. I am no authority on this, but they may be right. It is interesting, for example, that both English and German were codified in their modern forms around the Christian message. The German language was made up of various dialectical forms when Luther translated the Bible. At that point, the German language was set down in a form which became standard. Luther’s German became the literary German. In England, the early translations of the Bible, summed up supremely in the King James Version, did the same thing for the English language. This meant that Christianity could be easily taught as long as the generally accepted meaning of the words were the Christian meaning of the words. In Japan, on the other hand, it is very difficult to use the word guilt without a long explanation, because in Japan the word guilt grew up as a vehicle for the Japanese concept of ceremonial uncleanliness. Now if we have a word that means ceremonial uncleanliness as a vehicle and we try to explain true moral guilt in the presence of a holy, personal God, we have quite a task. We may have to use the word, but we must then refashion its definition and be certain that the people to whom we are speaking understand just how we are using the word. It must mean something different than it did in the symbol system out of which the word came. (continued in next post!)

Margaret Sonnemann said...

(continued!) There is the same dilemma in art styles and forms. Think, for example, of T. S. Eliot’s form of poetry in The Waste Land. The fragmented form matches the vision of fragmented man. But it is intriguing that after T. S. Eliot became a Christian — for example, in The Journey of the Magi — he did not use quite this same form. Rather, he adapted it for the message he was now giving — a message with a Christian character. But he didn’t entirely give up the form; he didn’t go back to Tennyson. Rather, he adapted the form that he used in The Waste Land, changing it to fit the message that he was now giving. In other words, T. S. Eliot the Christian wrote somewhat differently than T. S. Eliot the “modern man.” Therefore, while we must use twentieth-century styles, we must not use them in such a way as to be dominated by the world-views out of which they have arisen. Christianity is a message with its own distinctive propositional content, not a set of “religious” truths in an upper story. The whole man is to be addressed, and this includes his mind as well as his emotions and his aesthetic sensitivity. Therefore, an art form or style that is no longer able to carry content cannot be used to give the Christian message. I am not saying that the style is in itself wrong, but that it has limitations. Totally fractured prose or poetry cannot be used to give the Christian message for the simple reason that it cannot carry intellectual content, and you canØt preach Christianity without content. The biblical message, the good news, is a good news of content."

Suzannah said...

Thanks Margaret! A fascinating quote! And I'm glad you found the post encouraging. It's freeing to realise you don't need to do art alone, without help and guidance from what others have done before.

Steve Isham said...

Such a nourishing and liberating post Suzannah. Thank you. Perhaps ultimately there is no originality and the presumption of originality in modernity and the striving after novelty for it's own sake ends in the poo, literally (MONA) and other forms of impoverished art.

Tim Nelson said...

My thought is that originality is easy, and therefore not really worthwhile, but *better* originality is hard, and where the value comes from.

I also thought I'd comment on the Esther 1 post. I was reading it in Hebrew with a friend one time, and we realised that the word usually translated "banquet" is actually more like "drinking". We then realised that the capter can be modernised and summarised as "The Prime Minister invited the government officials from all the states so that they could have a booze-up together. When asked why, Mr. Minister said 'So that they all know what a great guy I am' ". Off-topic, but hopefully amusing to someone.

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