Desire

 

Desire quickens the heart, tickles the mind, fires up the imagination. The object of our desire which is (at least in all the ways our instruments can measure) “merely” physical somehow engages with and attracts the soul. We want to revel in the experience, immersing in the object of our desire, through every sense we possess: sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.

A 2×4 piece of wood is a static thing; it was made impersonally. That same piece of wood, worked over a lathe, lovingly handled by an artist, and crafted into a sculpture, is no longer a mere piece of wood. It is more.

Beauty is necessarily dynamic. Ideally, beauty requires the engagement of two living souls, but it can also be the connection between one living soul and the object of a creative act. Beauty is alive, because desire is not a static thing – it must be constantly in motion, an ongoing swirling and fluxing attraction. Even if the beautiful object is static (think of the Mona Lisa), the observer is not. He studies her carefully, noticing different aspects, fascinated in turn by what happens under altered lighting, or when he is in a pensive mood. More than this: I think the Mona Lisa is attractive because the painting has had its creator’s soul poured into it – and even that ensoulment is itself not static.

This is the power of art: something in which a creator has poured themselves. We see, in that thing, the expression of the creator’s soul, their spirituality poured into something which, if it were to be described using purely physical language, may be nothing more than sound frequencies, the way a person moves their body, or the result of colored oils smeared on a canvas.

When someone invests in creating a poem or a piece of music or art, that creator has invested their soul into that object, creating something that can be deep and rich and hypnotically attractive; think of G-d’s creations in the stunning world around us, as well as His creation of mankind. In turn man’s creations, in partnership with G-d are no less beautiful (albeit in a different way): think of a symphony, or a Mona Lisa, or a cheerful and engaging toddler.

Of course, not all creations are beautiful just because they have been created: we can make garbage at least as easily as we can create something that is attractive. The challenge is to keep growing, to use our creative powers to walk down a mystic path, instead of merely to create a graven image, a pale imitation of G-d’s own creations. Our challenge is to make something that has never existed before. That thing is the best kind of beauty of all. It is the kind of art that can touch and inspire and enthrall millions.

This is not mere imitatio dei. G-d has already created the world. Remaking things that have already been made is not human progress; it is mere repetition, like marching in big circles (think of all the pagan conceptions of the world as nothing more than a wheel). So when we make things, we are not supposed to imitate nature, G-d’s own work:

Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below.  (Deut. 4:15-18)

If we make these things, we would be stuck in a repeating pattern, an ultimately static existence. And without dynamism, there can be no beauty. So true beauty requires us to do what G-d did: create things that never existed before.

Holy creation is creating something that opens up doorways, growing in new areas of personal or communal development. So we are to create things that never existed before, which includes procreation, making new people who can in turn improve their lives, the lives of their families and friends, and the world at large.

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There are 17 comments.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I think this OP would fit your definition in every way: creative, inspired, dynamic, and beautiful.

    • #1
  2. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    iWe, first thing that came to mind, kind of as an approach from the other end, was:

    A man will learn some skill, and after making doubly sure he’s got it
    down, will use it over and over again in vain, never understanding that
    that skill has now become his enemy and that he is inviting disaster.
    –Issai Chozanshi

    Great post.  Thank you.

     

    • #2
  3. Underground Conservative Coolidge
    Underground Conservative
    @UndergroundConservative

    Please forgive me for making light of your great post. When you mentioned a 2×4 on a lathe, I thought of this.

    https://youtu.be/37s2EAvTyS0

    • #3
  4. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Underground Conservative (View Comment):
    Please forgive me for making light of your great post. When you mentioned a 2×4 on a lathe, I thought of this.

    https://youtu.be/37s2EAvTyS0

    I had not seen this before. Quite funny!

    • #4
  5. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    This is a thing of beauty; employing pixels on a screen to bring all manner of beautiful sounds/sights/memories/people to mind and heart.  Incidentally, Pope Francis’s prayer intention for this month of August highlights artisans of all kinds and their mediation of beauty – as well as their mastery of their various media – as a participation in G-d’s creativity.

    • #5
  6. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Making new people is viciously maligned by death worshippers as “contributing to overpopulation.” Because it is so successful in giving praise to the Creator, it must be attacked.

    Do you find that without an attitude of gratitude, creation is not possible? I do, but wonder what others think.

    • #6
  7. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    Do you find that without an attitude of gratitude, creation is not possible? I do, but wonder what others think.

    Artists are often among the most narcissistic (and probably ungrateful) people. Great artists certainly create very beautiful things – but they are often not found on the “nice person” part of the spectrum.

    • #7
  8. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    I don’t mean they have to be pleasant — geniuses rarely are — but in their work there is that sense of connectedness to the universe which places the perspective to the Creator correctly.

    • #8
  9. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Hmm. Maybe it’s more that me seeing someone else’s creation, or my own, fills me with a sense of gratitude, regardless of the creator.

    • #9
  10. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    in their work there is that sense of connectedness to the universe which places the perspective to the Creator correctly.

    I think they are in connection to their own souls – which are, as we know from Genesis, on loan from G-d. So instead of being connected to the universe (and grateful to it), they are instead very well connected to the “still, small voice” found in each human spirit.

    Great art tends to come from introspection, not from contemplating the universe. That makes sense to me.

    • #10
  11. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    Hmm. Maybe it’s more that me seeing someone else’s creation, or my own, fills me with a sense of gratitude, regardless of the creator.

    Oh, yes. That is part of the dynamism of beauty – that it takes two to tango.

    I think what you call “gratitude” often manifests itself in the the appreciator by seeking to immerse oneself in that thing, and even trying to acquire it.

    My Father-in-Law has a game that works with kids in even the most boring museums: “Pick the one thing there that you would want to bring home and look at every day.” Why? Because it connects with us, and speaks to us.

    • #11
  12. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    I just write about bodily functions.

    iWe (View Comment):

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    Do you find that without an attitude of gratitude, creation is not possible? I do, but wonder what others think.

    Artists are often among the most narcissistic (and probably ungrateful) people. Great artists certainly create very beautiful things – but they are often not found on the “nice person” part of the spectrum.

    I always appreciate meeting a humble kind artist.   Gratitude isn’t critical but it flows out and enhances everything, one of God’s virtues writ large.

    • #12
  13. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    How about modern composers who write music that is positively painful to listen to?

    • #13
  14. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    How about modern composers who write music that is positively painful to listen to?

    Not all souls resonate with others. Artists whose work is widely adored are quite rare.

    • #14
  15. Chuckles Thatcher
    Chuckles
    @Chuckles

    Underground Conservative (View Comment):
    Please forgive me for making light of your great post. When you mentioned a 2×4 on a lathe, I thought of this.

    https://youtu.be/37s2EAvTyS0

    @iwe may want to edit out that 2×4 bit:  Me, I immediately thought of a Louisville Slugger.  It does seem a bit irreverent!

     

    • #15
  16. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Chuckles (View Comment):

    Underground Conservative (View Comment):
    Please forgive me for making light of your great post. When you mentioned a 2×4 on a lathe, I thought of this.

    https://youtu.be/37s2EAvTyS0

    @iwe may want to edit out that 2×4 bit: Me, I immediately thought of a Louisville Slugger. It does seem a bit irreverent!

    The Louisville Slugger is another sort of sculpture that 2 x 4 can become, @chuckles, no irreverence there.  You and others may well consider it beautiful.

    • #16
  17. Grosseteste Thatcher
    Grosseteste
    @Grosseteste

    Thought-provoking post. This brought to mind for me a certain kind of literature, i.e. computer games.  Normally the events of a game narrative are created through play, but some games go farther, such that characters, monsters, physical features, and even game mechanics emerge dynamically, independently of what the player is doing, like in this game here.  What can we say about the maker of this game?  Is he like a toolmaker, a step removed from the act of creation?  Does he imitate the Creator by creating an entity capable of creation?  This last question is interesting, because I do think that beautiful things, “art,” can and will be created by artificial creations of human beings, which would mean a kind of second-generation ensoulment of the art machine creator’s intention.


    This conversation is part of a Group Writing series with the theme “Beauty”, planned for the whole month of August. If you follow this link, you can see the links to other August posts, which will be updated as the month goes on. While you’re there, please sign up! There’s plenty of room.

    • #17
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