“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply. . . . A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”–Franz Kafka
Entertainment gives you a predictable pleasure. Art gives you pleasure but leads to transformation. It awakens you rather than just satisfies a craving. –Makato Fujimura (I think*)
What does it mean for art to wound and transform? What does it mean when dealing with ugly, evil things, such as suicide (my first novel) or sex trafficking (my WIP)? The beauty comes not in the evil but in the possibility of redemption and hope for those caught in these horrors. I firmly believe there is always hope and always the possibility of redemption, even when things are bleak.
I’m recalling a story I heard of a professor in a difficult marriage; wife was mentally ill or had dementia, something like that. He told his students not to feel sorry for him. Instead, he chose to remind himself of truth. At any given moment, he looked around for seven things in his physical world that reminded him of God’s presence. A beautiful tree, perhaps, or other things.
And I recall walking in a museum room and being overwhelmed by a beautiful painting. Blue, with flecks of real gold in the paint. A verse from the Bible in it. It was such a brilliant, wounding, transformative moment. I had been walking through a section of the museum with some very dark artwork and to turn the corner (literally) and see this painting took my breath away and made my heart shatter and fly back together in a new configuration. It wounded and transformed.
(I’m easing back into writing with this post. It’s just something I scribbled down in my writer’s journal a week or so ago while contemplating where my current work-in-progress is headed, so it may feel a bit off-the-cuff and random.
*I couldn’t find a definitive answer to who said this. I found it on Jeff Goins’ blog, who got it from Steven Proctor’s blog, who says he heard it at Makato Fujimura’s Int’l Arts Movement conference a while ago. It sounds like something Fujimura would say, but if it wasn’t him, my apologies to the original speaker.)