Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In print part 2

In this post I talked about the transporting, illuminating power of language. There is a postscript to that short discussion that I left for another day, however -- today, as it turns out.

It seems to me that the quality of writing to re-enchant the world, to fill it with significance as if lit from within and reorder its chaos into a cosmos, is contingent on a certain willingness to accept the world as ultimately valuable and meaningful. I well remember the taken-for-grantedness of this attitude in the books I voraciously consumed as a child, and how untethered and free it made me feel. And I still get that sense, that spiritual, truth-telling sense, from great writing that takes the natural and human worlds as its subjects.

So I suppose I'm fundamentally oriented against any cultural efforts to establish a transcendent realm as more real, more significant, more important than this one we inhabit. That always seemed stifling to me, a lesson that your elders and your betters tried to get you to take at their word. I know that everyone who regards themselves as "just a-passin' through" this world, and tries to pass on that message about their ultimate home "somewhere beyond the blue" is not an enemy of free thought. But the notion that the wonders of our own experience, especially as they can be revealed and enhanced by language, art, architecture, and other human works, are to be disparaged by right-thinking folks as secondary and potentially idolatrous -- it has always seemed like a denial of the power that is so obviously right in front of us to be grasped, used, and appreciated.

I know many people for whom every work that fails to acknowledge the supremacy of the transcendent realm is of trivial worth at best, and is dangerous at worst. I understand their point of view because it was to some extent the way I was brought up. But I was seduced early on by the limitless horizons revealed to me by those very works. Far from finding them flawed or hobbled, I grew to find the works that hewed to the "correct" order of value stunted and blinkered. I can't say that my bias is in the better direction -- I can only say that it is my bias, brought on by early experience and a deep sense that I cannot deny about where freedom is to be found.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

You grabbed my attention with the sentence "the quality of writing to re-enchant the world...". It's such a beautiful image of what writing can do (I'm reminded of Tolkien's thoughts about the power of story here).

I agree that the idea that "this world" is transitory is somehow flawed. What the hell is life for then? This is one concept that continues to bother me about certain strains of Christianity. If all we're doing is twiddling our thumbs until our "real" life can start, then why do I feel to attached to the life I have? Why do I feel the need to live each moment with passion and to care so much for those (and the world) around me? I've never even liked the idea of Heaven as some streets of gold, mansion-filled place; it seems to me if there's a Heaven, it's going to be a wild, alive place with lots and lots of trees. And animals. And rivers. And tasty fruits. (I think my parents just called me a pagan.)