In the afterlife, our narrator speaks with the ghost of a gifted painter:
“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. Light itself was your first love: you loved 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. [He replied] 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 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.
– C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, p.78
This is a huge trap that artists of all kinds fall into. I have known MANY guitarists who fret over their gear to no end. They save up their money to buy that $4000 acoustic, or maybe even the Brazilian rosewood one. They’ve got the best strings, the best pedals, the TC Electronics reverb, no, scratch that, the Lexicon reverb is better. The best… oh, except they never practice. They haven’t learned a new tune in 3 years. Where was the energy back when they used to rock that pawn shop Harmony?
Apparently this is a classic snare for photographers as well. The discussion here is enlightening. Someone posted this quote:
“Amateurs worry about equipment, pros worry about money, masters worry about light.”
When I dabbled in music history at graduate school, we were given a 20-page scholarly journal article that concerned the opening trill to one of Beethoven’s violin sonatas. That’s it. The whole mountain of work and footnotes was on how to play the first note of the piece. And it was actually in someone’s job description to write this kind of over-analysis on a regular basis. What happened to making music? (I would link to the article here, but it’s behind a closed access library site.)
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the details of art. Half the magazines on the rack feed of this weakness in us. It effects every discipline. Oh, does it ever effect theology! Check out the quote again:
Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from 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.
Lewis saw this as a twisting of love. A corruption of loving and finding joy in a piece of God’s creation. It is “bent” as he would say in some of his other works. It is our temptation. Shake it off and live. Go create something.