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    Book Club: Sayers’ The Mind of the Maker{Chapter 4}

    November 29, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    Sayers commences her fourth chapter with a seeming paradox. Is the Creator equal to the sum of all His work? {She means here that there is nothing about Him but His works.} Or is He entirely detached from what He has made and therefore unknowable? I have heard something along these lines presented before, as if these were the only two possible options available to us, and Sayers does a wonderful job {using her analogical skill} to show us that a third option not only must exist, but must be true.

    Sayers’ Case Against Pantheism

    I love the way Sayers makes her arguments because they aren’t logical, but rather analogical. I am so accustomed to people needing their arguments to make sense–logically speaking–that it is striking to read someone who makes arguments by drawing parallel lines and showing these lines to be so much the same that a divergence stands out as untrue. It is fascinating, and I want to try to learn to do this. I think Doug Wilson does this often and that is why, love him or hate him, he is a delight to read in terms of his mastery of this art.

    Her case against Pantheism is simply that it doesn’t fit the analogy. She uses the example of Shakespeare. We know that Shakespeare was a real person who wrote real works, and there is a sense in which he incarnated himself in his works. He can be said to be Hamlet, for there is a part of himself that he put into Hamlet. {Of course, she points out that he puts himself into each character, so he is also Othello and also King Lear and so on and so forth.}

    Even though we know that Shakespeare is “in” his works, it is nonsensical to us to think that his works are literally him and that nothing else but his works has ever or will ever exist–that there is no Shakespeare outside of his works.

    Mathematically speaking, arguing for Pantheism is arguing that:

    Shakespeare = his writings

    In other words, it’s an absurdity.

    Sayers’ Case Against Deism

    I don’t think she ever uses the term Deism, but when Sayers is talking about the idea of God-as-disconnected-clockmaker she simply must mean Deism. Her argument here again relies on analogies, but it is structured somewhat differently. She asserts that the progression of history refutes Deism. This system requires the universe to be a machine of some sort which the Creator made and then abandoned to run on its own according to its own laws.

    Sayers reminds us that machines produce “unities,” the same thing over and over. A toothbrush machine, if there is such a thing, makes only toothbrushes. But our world is full of diversity and, Sayers says,

    we have no experience of machines that produce varieties of their own accord.

    Therefore, the progression of history–the sense that it continues to unfold {in many ways, like a book}–proves or evidences God’s continued involvement because this type of situation requires His continued expenditure of creative power.

    To go back to her “writer’s trinity,” the nature of the universe requires Activity still.

    Vital Power in Writing

    I like to write, as I’m sure you can tell. For me, writing is a path to understanding. I have, however, tried my hand at writing as a creative expression–as an artist–and I’ve found that I’m weak. It is incredibly difficult for me, and I’m never satisfied. We could say that my problem is in the “idea” category, but there have been times that I had a very clear idea and yet my execution was weak {and, I might add, embarrassing}.

    So what was the problem?

    Well, I had a light bulb moment this past week, when Sayers taught me that the vital power of an imaginative work is to have diversity within unity. She mentioned that someone like Shakespeare would pour himself not only into his heroes, but also his villains. Even into his fools! The point was that he poured himself in to each and every character.

    She contrasts this with the manufacturing of so many “dummies” upon the page. These are characters which exist only to dialog with the main character, throwing the ball back to him. TV shows do this so as to have characters to kill off. My husband and I joke about this when we watch Revolution. See that new guy? He’s definitely going to die.

    This week, I learned that a writer’s energy must be active in the whole and not in only his favorite parts or favorite characters. He can–and must–incarnate himself even in his villains, if they are to be believed.

    Most of my fiction attempts were done at very young ages, but I think I gave it up because I wasn’t any good. And I don’t mean that I needed practice. I think I instinctively knew that I was missing something, but what was missing was a mystery to me.

    Of course, there is a good argument for me never being any good, just as you would likely never have cause to purchase a painting painted by me, but I think my weakness was here, in this very spot Sayers touches upon. I think I might have thought that it was good and noble to “incarnate myself” into my heroines, while leaving my villains to fend for themselves. It was sort of like constructing a straw man fallacy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think I see this clearly now. I thought weak villains were “good” in the sense that we want to hate them, don’t we? But they were never believable precisely because they were so weakly written. And I think that, because they were villains, I was afraid to pour myself into them. What would it say about me as I did? It wasn’t just a failure of imagination. It was also an act of fear–I was afraid to pour myself into a villain.

    I have a new resolve now to try and throw myself into something–into every piece of that something–to see what happens. I am curious to see if I can conjure something noble or, at the very least, worth reading, now that I understand this.

    Even if I prove to myself that I am, in fact, deficient, I think it is useful to understand this concept of “diversity in unity”–that when I put my power into all parts, it strengthens the whole. If this makes sense. Does it?


    Read More:
    -More posts linked at Ordo Amoris
    Buy the book and read along!
    -Get Mind of the Maker for free from Willa’s Readlist

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    2 Comments

  • Reply Ordo-Amoris December 4, 2012 at 1:06 am

    Brandy,
    I am late in reading all the entries as I got sick this week but I kind of like reading them right before I read the next chapter. I am like you as far as creative writing goes. Sometimes I think about Shakespeare and try to decide if his later plays are better than his earlier works. I am not always sure. What does that mean? I keep thinking I should have a book in me but in spite of all these years of blogging and even the ease I have in actually writing, I cannot find an idea to hang my hat on for a book.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts December 4, 2012 at 3:56 am

      Maybe some of us were simply born to commentate? Throw tomatoes, applaud, and all that jazz? 🙂

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