Posted by: spickering | May 24, 2006

The Novel And Art

Is there anything that feels better in your hands than a book? Ok, don't answer that! Maybe I'll put it this way: Is there any better ocean for the avid reader/writer to swim in than the novel? Imagine, a whole orgy of words elevated to an artform of flows and structures, and even trying to pull off a story! Ha!

But sometimes I get to thinking that the Novel, and even its child the Short Story, are complete wastes of time written by arrogant, pompous fools. I mean why do they think their stories or thoughts are so important or innovative that I should spend hours putting my attention on it? For instance, Fairy Tales and Myths have more meaningful things to say about life, and say them usually in just a few pages. But then when I get into it and am really enjoying myself I stop and think about what's really going on. I realize that reading and writing taken to an artform is a type of meditation, and the novel provides one with an extended word meditation. What other forms are as good as it for this? Philosophy and Science are great, but they are linear. The fact that the novel, at its best, is art, is the added cherry on top of the experience. Being art, it will create movements that fold in on themselves and refer to foward and backward events in time, and even at moments open the door to the eternal. The eternal as aesthetic. "integras, claritas" as Aquinas would say.

I'm always reading a novel. For me, it's like eating. Even if they are boring, I finish them because I must finish the meditation, and usually by the end I don't feel they are so boring. Each time I finish one, I feel like I've planted something inside me that continues to unfold and grow for a long time. The great ones, you can read and re read because you are not reading for a plot. You're reading for something that's hidden behind the words. And you can keep digging and digging and it only gets better. That's reading. That's writing. That's everything: to put yourself in a "state" of happiness, a state of meditation on the flow, the rhythm on how something is building in a great movement. And when you are in that you can sometimes briefly glimpse the eternal. That's art.

In India the goal of art is to reach a place where there is no need for art. That's Zen: an opening! You peel back the layers and experience your life, a life, the life. Art is a metaphor for attention. We all think we are running out of time. But art says that we have all of eternity, that we always were and always will be. Art says, "He who spends time will gain an infinite amount of it." Many other things do this too. In fact, art is a metaphor for how to live, no, how to experience a life.

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