A businessman approaches an architect because he needs a larger space for his business. The architect agrees to design a new building. The architect could design a big box that looks like Wal-mart, Best Buy, or a dozen other large retailers.
Or he might design something more akin to a Guggenheim Museum.
Why? Why even bother to reach for the heights of your profession, the epitome of beauty, the full release of expression? One functions just as well as the other . . . and costs significantly less.
I once went to the symphony in Poland. The Krakow Chamber Orchestra played Bolero, by Maurice Ravel. By no means is this the most profound piece of music ever written. Ravel himself called it “simplistic.” At the culmination of the piece during this performance, however, the audience sat in stunned silence for much longer than was appropriate before they began to applaud. But once that applause began, it did not stop. The orchestra returned and performed the last bit again as an encore. Again, the audience refused to stop clapping. The entire orchestra returned for a second time and played the entire, fifteen-minute piece again. (What exhaustion for the percussionist on the snare!) When the applause resumed, the conductor turned around and said, “Please! We cannot.”
There are times (I’ve written about this before) when I have to just stop reading and let an exquisite sentence settle into my mind. Sometimes, I reread a paragraph several times because it is so well-conceived. My friend, Hannah, is really good at writing like this. She recently penned, “The invisible fibers of my spiritual muscles had broken down through the relentless repetition of stress and spiritual warfare.” (Here is the context, if you’re interested. You have to scroll down some to get to Hannah’s part.) That’s poetry in paragraph form.
So all those examples mean . . . what?
There’s a message that I want to convey when I write, but any number of people could tell you the same thing. I am not so presumptuous as to think that God reveals Himself to me with any sort of exclusivity. Once you get the grammar right, like the structure inside a building, the function of writing is settled. But then, the message takes on the personality of the writer and attempts to link his or her subject (for me, a continually increasing understanding of God) with the lives of his or her readers.
There is something significant in a beautiful building, a superb symphony, a perfectly proportioned paragraph. (And it’s not just the alliteration. Ha-ha!) Such things affect us more deeply and connect us more securely not only to the creators and performers but to everyone around us. The audience in Krakow that night stood up “in one accord.”
Visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. just know to be quiet—even the children. No one has to tell us to do that. The place evokes a reaction.
The best writers (fiction, nonfiction, prose, poetry—it doesn’t matter) do the same thing: ignite a reaction in the reader’s mind . . . and sometimes in his heart. I think most artists/designers are trying to do this. But the writer has a further advantage; he can also be the voice of that shared human experience.
I write because I want to understand—and help the reader understand—how profound God truly is. If, through my unique presentation, I can reach into another’s soul like God has reached into mine and pluck the strings of comprehension so precisely that Truth reverberates into your toes and permanently reconditions your heart . . . well . . . then, facts and observations become authentic Christ-likeness and the earthly expression of His glory. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Just after I finished the rough draft of this post, I read *this* blog entry by John Piper. So now that I made you plow through my convoluted thought processes, go read how he phrases it so eloquently: that each of us is the “secretary of the praise of God.”