Thursday, May 01, 2008

And now for a few brief comments on Mutt's 'Journal of a Novel' posts

Here is a little entr'acte in the form of a brief comment or two on our man Mutt's periodic posts loosely gathered under the title of "Journal of a 'Novel'." (I don't like using those idiotic quotes on the word 'novel,' but he insists on it and out of deference to him - especially since it constitutes something of a nod to John Steinbeck - I will play along.)

I think the last post (#44, "My Point Is...") was indicative of the direction Mutt has been taking these entries lately, and I'm not sure who's noticed but these meditations are getting increasingly introspective and, for lack of a better word, spiritual as they go along. I wanted to point this out not just because it is an interesting trend to observe, but because it fits so well thematically with the stated intentions of this blog. "Literature and the Spiritual Life" is how The Secret Thread is described on its masthead, and while it was meant to refer to the books that we read and how they impact and enhance our interior lives, Mutt's ongoing "dialogue with himself" (and with blog readers) as he struggles to write his own meaningful book tackles some of the same themes, but from a decidedly different angle. What does it mean to create art, or to even attempt to create art? How will such an attempt shape and color one's own spiritual life? What is the point of the writer picking up the pen (or the artist the brush, the musician the instrument, etc.) if one's "success," at least in worldly terms, is never assured - and in fact, as he points out in this last post, is statistically likely to go the other way??

These are profound questions that resonate with anyone who has ever tried to create art in any way, or is even interested in the process and purpose of creating it. The impulse to create and the impulse to worship seem to have strong and mysterious connections, and Mutt's entries increasingly draw attention to this profound relationship - whether he is conscious of it or not (I think certainly in this last one, he was in fact consciously trying to explore this mystery). Nowhere is this connection more apparent than in the Biblical psalms, where images of the created world praising God abound... trees clap their hands, mountains shout for joy, etc. And it's no accident that when both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien described the "creation" of the worlds in their respective fantasy tales, they both did so using art, in this case music - both Narnia and Middle Earth were brought into being by singing.

What's the point of all this? Just that Mutt's posts are worth reading and thinking about, because they don't simply chronicle the progress of a novel he is trying to write about a couple in Indiana during the 20's and 30's... they've become increasingly interesting and profound meditations on the obligations of the would-be artist to himself, his family, his own vision, and to the God that has blessed him with all of these things, and has seemingly indicated that these are the tools and circumstances with which He intends Mutt to "work out his own salvation with fear and trembling." God obviously doesn't promise us fame and fortune in the worldly sense: in fact, Jesus has told us the opposite ("In the world you will have trouble"), and perhaps no one is more keen to this fact than the struggling artist, trying to make ends meet while staying faithful to his/her own inner calling! But Mutt's efforts to maintain this fidelity and integrity across multiple fronts is a journey worth following, because it reminds us all of the "secret thread" that links our own desires to create to the impulse, and indeed obligation, we have to give thanks to the One who blessed us with the very life we long to celebrate and (simultaneously) figure out.

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