Literature as True Art

December 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

C.S. Lewis points out, “Agape is all giving, not getting….Giving money is only one way of showing charity; to give time and toil is far better and (for most of us) harder.”

Sacrifice and love are rituals; however, rituals which initially carried meaning now stand in action alone. Love is a ritual and a commitment; C.S. Lewis also recognizes the importance of rituals in our everyday lives. Rituals have lost their meaning because we don’t recognize the truth behind them; they are symbols, and these representatives are used so often that they become viewed as the intentions. The world needs myths and truth-sayers to show the underlying meaning and significance behind actions performed.

When discussing the components of life that humanize, Campbell brings up, “The unbiblical point, the humanity, the thing that makes you human and not supernatural and immortal—that’s what’s lovable. That is why some people have a very hard time loving God, because there’s no imperfection there. You can be in awe, but that would not be real love. It’s Christ on the cross that becomes lovable.” Because humans are imperfect, they must make a habit of love until it becomes a true agape, service-oriented love. The danger in this lies in the acts of service becoming tasks which must be completed; however, literature aids the recovery of meaning in ritual.

In connection between literature and myths, Campbell states, “Mythology teaches you what’s behind literature and the arts, it teaches you about your own life. It’s a great, exciting, life-nourishing subject.” Literature is a soul-nourishing subject through which truth can be known, and felt, and loved, and cared for. Literature as true art deals with the human condition of sin nature, and tells truths about the world and the people in it. Literature reveals the fundamental truths about human nature which most people are unable to or refuse to recognize because the truths hit too close to home.

Walker Percy says, “It is a perversion of art to look upon science as the true naming and knowing and upon art as a traffic in emotions. Both science and art discover being, and neither may patronize the other… This [art] is a naming and a knowing and a truth-saying at least as important as botanical classification.” Percy recognizes the importance of these meanings. Love is no loose symbol for toil; it still holds meaning. Although rituals become symbols and the meaning behind them may be lost to the back of our minds, myths bring these truths to the forefront. Through disciplined acts of service, humans come to a realization of a world outside themselves, and a love for each other. Soul-nurturing literature injects an initial sting which flourishes into an antidote for the human nature thrashing through our veins, and comes round to instill virtue. Such rituals lead to holiness, and are worth pursuing.


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