Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Online Book Club: *The Mind of the Maker* Chapter 3

UPDATE:  Well, guess what I saw last night?  Alec Guiness in *The Horse's Mouth,* about a quirky artist. It's kind of a comedy, in that dark sophisticated 1950's/1960's way, with some definite madcap shenanigans (destruction of a beautiful apartment in the name of "art").  But what's applicable to this discussion is one point when the artist regards a mural he's just painted, for which he had all kinds of vision--the raising of Lazarus--and he says something like, "Well, that's not what I had in mind at all."  Where was the problem?  In the Idea, in the Energy, in the Power?

Here's a link to the movie on Amazon Instant Video:


I'm a little discouraged that my last week's post is pretty lonesome, that I'm just talking to myself. [Update: I realize I didn't leave my proper link to last week's post on Cindy R.'s last week's post!  That's fixed now. How embarrassing.]

But to get ahead of myself, Sayers would say I'm a blogger whether anyone's reading my blog or not, or even, praise God, whether I get my blog post written or not!  (See p. 42.)  In any case, I'll plug along. I sometimes feel I can hold on to an idea only long enough to make a quick comment before my I.Q. plunges again.  Maybe it's my age.  In any case, this is another installment in the ongoing project of Ordo-Amoris.  

Sayers tells us that God, complete unto Himself as the "well-spring" is not manifest without a creature to witness the Creation. Makes me think, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?"  That circles back to the poet idea above, from p. 42.  God is Creator eternally, even before we had a Creation.

p. 35:  "Those who [in disputing about God strive to transcend the whole creation] are more mischievously and emptily vain than their fellows." (Augustine)

p. 36  Mathematicians and artists have a way of seeing things that allows them to get outside their environments far enough to be able to describe them (dimensions and things).

p. 39 Sayers says that a work is always consistent with its nature.  In the power, though, what do we do with the critical theory of our time--well, of the last century--that says the work exists unto itself, or only in the mind of the reader, never mind what the author intends?

She talks a lot about how the works exist in the mind of the writer as whole beings well before they begin to be made manifest in the Energy/Activity. But I have experienced having a germ of an idea and then seeing where it might be going as I develop it in writing. I've read of many novelists working that way, too. Would Sayers say they just didn't know everything that was already in their heads before they got it out?   She also says, though, on p. 40, that we must have the Energy/Activity in order to have the idea known to others AND OURSELVES. If it already exists in the mind, why must it have expression on paper in order to exist?  Or is the Energy manifest in our minds before the translation of words on paper?  I get the feeling she's pushing her analogy too far in both directions by changing "Energy" to "Activity" and thus making it more practical and concrete AND saying Power "proceeds from the Idea and the Energy together," very credal language. I feel like my daughter the day she set one foot into a canoe and left the other on the dock and soon fell in the water--the things are drifting apart.

p. 42   IS a poet still a poet if he has no way to express his poetry?  What makes a poet?

p. 43  I don't like the disdain of "men of science."  If they don't behave this way, if they're renaissance men, are they "really" poets, then and not scientists?  On p. 44, she sets forth the idea that science depends on progress, the idea that we're always building and improving, but that art recognizes single geniuses in every age, whose work cannot be progressed beyond or built upon but only added to by later geniuses.  But my husband Glenn did a great paper and talk on Benjamin Franklin a couple of years ago, making the case that he was one of those singular geniuses who had amazing expertise in multiple fields (statesmanship as well as science, for example). Some researcher whose name escapes me has shown how geniuses of different times stack up to one another by virtue of their prominence in their own time and our recognition of them in later time. So Galileo is one, and Newton, and some others.  But Benjamin Franklin is a rare genius who "has it all."  Would Sayers say he's risen above his being a scientist to become a poet, ultimately?

Here's the video of Glenn's talk. :-)  

I feel cranky in my response to Sayers, pressured to finish this chapter when I didn't feel like it, really.  Sorry about that! :-)


Willa said...

Hi Cindy,

I commented on your earlier post not realizing until later that you had written a post for week 2!

I had a little trouble with this chapter too. I didn't realize I was in trouble till I was trying to write the response. I guess that's one other value with a book discussion.. motivation to persist through rough spots (at least for me)

I think that it was partly because the idea of a writer's trinity was actually stranger to me than the divine Trinity. So for me it was using the Trinity to understand the writer's craft, and I wonder if that messed up my thinking a little.

Re: your note on p 39 -- I was wondering about that too!

I'm glad you persisted since your post has given me some things to think about!

Cindy Marsch said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Willa! :-) I wonder if you (and I) have trouble with the writer's trinity because we're familiar with the Trinity already, but she's writing to an audience whose background she does not know, perhaps doing a bit of evangelical apologetics here.

Renee said...

Nope, you are not just talking to yourself! I had the same question regarding the "does a poem exist if it's all in your head" idea. I kind of...(hear me saying that very tentatively) get what she might be saying though. I had a talk with a student recently who wanted to know how to get out of a bind in a story she's writing. She was determined to put in a certain element and couldn't make it fit. I asked her what her overall purpose for the story was. "What do you mean?" Well, what is your message? Your theme? "I don't know. I just write what I feel like."
groan. GROAN! Maybe she should have spent more time on that initial idea before applying the energy!

Renee said...
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Renee said...
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Cindy Marsch said...

Renee, I, too, shudder when I hear of my writing students who are just barely getting it with brief essays that they are working on novels or even series of novels! To give them credit, though, the power of an imaginary world to create some coherence is not to be underestimated. :-)

Regarding Sayers' romantic ideas of the Poet still glowing with Poetesse in a dungeon somewhere, arms chained so that she cannot even scratch out poems in blood on the dank walls, maybe we're just too practical, the workaday women of the writing world.

Ordo-Amoris said...

So interesting! Stephen King says that he just writes and lets the story lead him where it will. He does read voraciously and was an English major and teacher. I do think their is some (not a lot) of validity for that. The only novel of his I read could definitely have used some editing. But I do believe in the power of the idea. When I am asked to write something such as for Circe where I am often given a topic, my first reaction is usually panic and then suddenly I begin to write and things clear up. I believe this is because the ideas are already there even if I haven't accessed them yet. I also find this is how I write poetry. Poetry usually needs a good deal of tweaking but the ideas are born out of something, ideas deep within me that I was unaware of.

Perhaps that sort of freestyle writing is good for students to train them how to access the ideas their minds have been working on.

Or maybe I just missed the whole point of this discussion :)

Cindy Marsch said...

I just hope they recognize it as freestyle writing and practice and don't *Eragon* it or something. :-)

Brandy @ Afterthoughts said...

Well...I was basically going to say what Cindy said, though not as well as she said it. I think that when the writing is successful we can be assured that the Idea was there, even if we weren't fully conscious of it.

I am one of those people who *feels* that the full form is bumping around in my head somewhere and that is when I write. When I write before I get that feeling, it takes me two or three times as long, and I'm never really satisfied.

I have had a fairy tale in my head for at least three years. I haven't written it out because I don't think it is fully formed yet! :)

ps. I think we are seeing why Sayers essentially discarded the Quadrivium when she wrote her famous Lost Tools of Learning. She does seem to undervalue the sciences, as well as express a desire to separate the Trivium from the Quadrivium instead of seeing them as the seven liberal arts all together. Of course, perhaps she will get there later and I'm judging too soon. Perhaps her issue is with "modern" science and not science as such...

Cindy Marsch said...

Nicely expressed, Brandy. I've always wondered what Sayers would have thought of what's been done with her little experiment writing that article. I remember reading it in *National Review* magazine as a newlywed 25 years ago and getting inspired with the idea of classical education. I most liked her idea that learning anything thoroughly (Latin, e.g.), teaches us HOW to learn--I think that's the whole purpose of thesis writing in grad school. I'm guessing most of her issue is with tunnel-visioned scientists, though perhaps she unfairly allows the category to include even those it shouldn't.

Willa said...

Cindy, I like your thoughts on fiction-writing as a way to move towards coherence. That was how I did it as a child, and so have several of my children. But yeah, better keeping those first efforts hidden : ).