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Conversation between the Artist & the Spirit from “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis

By February 2, 2011February 22nd, 20182 Comments

Conversation between the ghost of a painter who just arrived in the land and one of the “solid” people:

“When you painted on earth—at least in your earlier days—it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too. But here you are having the thing itself. It is from here that the messages came. . . “

{To me, this implies two things: being an artist or a musician is a calling. Men and women who have been given the gift of “seeing” the “higher countries” see and hear things others cannot. They enable others to see and hear by painting, writing, singing, or playing music. Most true artists are moved to do so by a desire to capture and share the glimpses of the greater realities. They not only desire to share what they have already seen or heard, but they also desire to see more clearly. Creating is discovering. But this also implies that it is very easy to distort the “glimpses”—to begin sharing, not true realities, but perverted pictures of what paradise looks like. Perhaps this is because humanity is shortsighted. Or maybe it’s because the artist loses touch with reality by focusing on the creative process rather than the creation. The writing process rather than the subject, the paint rather than the painting, the musical notes rather than the song.}

Conversation continued:

“Why, if you are interested in the country only for the sake of painting it, you’ll never learn to see the country.” (Solid Person/Spirit)

“But that’s just how a real artist is interested in the country.” (Ghost of the painter)

“No. You’re forgetting,” said the Spirit. “That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved to paint only as a means of telling about light.”

“Oh, that’s ages ago,” said the Ghost. “One grows out of that. Of course, you haven’t seen my later works. One becomes more and more interested in paint for its own sake.”

“One does, indeed. I also have had to recover from that. It was all a snare. Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there, but they are also dangerous stimulants. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn’t stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower—becoming interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.”

{I think every artist and musician should read that once a year, at least!}

. . .

“If there is any of that inflammation left it will be cured when you come to the fountain. . . . when you have drunk of it you forget forever all proprietorship in your own works.”

Stephanie Staples

Author Stephanie Staples

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