Muses in Faith and Art
"We can't change It's who we are We are all alone The devil's been talkin' We can't change It's who we are We are all alone
I'm running out Of this hole alone These fingers bled Down to the bone And I can't move This hell is cold The chorus sings This is home" -The Devil’s Been Talkin’ NEEDTOBREATHE
With lights blazing, the band NEEDTOBREATHE played the first song in their set at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on a beautiful 70-degree night in Houston. The Devils Been Talkin’ is a song that speaks to the human condition, in this case, the moments when we feel like we have no one to walk with us through life’s trials. We believe the lie that there is no way out. We can’t change or be delivered.
The beauty of good art is that it speaks authentically of the human crisis. Authors such as Flannery O’Connor have expressed the idea that the writer has the trying challenge of colliding faith and humanity in a way that leads to wrestling with faith instead of avoiding it. She met that challenge with a host of criticism, though she was arguably one of the most successful at achieving the integration. Believing that one must use “shock” to get the attention of the secular reader, she tackled the Southern Gothic genre with grace.
Writers now, face the same challenge. How do we integrate faith, something that is inevitably part of the life experience, whether one knows it or not, with the other aspects of life? And specifically, how do we do that in a novel per se? On that amazing night of the concert, amid having the time of my life, I was also thoroughly encouraged to find a way to creatively express the longing for God in my writing. As a realistic fiction writer I’ve found myself making reference to faith in my work because I believe that how we relate to God effects everything. My characters are not exempt. In my attempt to make them believable, they will be like us even in their discovery of God in their midst.
Author Chaim Potok’s chilling line in The Promise where a father wishes God were a person so he could yell at him over his suffering, is an example of how this kind of collision takes place. Potok, a Jewish Rabbi, put into his novel the kind of longing people have to commune with God, perhaps especially in their darkest hour. The concert was at a packed venue. The crowd got everything from Bossa Nova, a pretty entertaining number where Bo Reinhart danced around on stage as a kind of intermission, to Multiplied, a song about surrendering our praise to God. But it’s songs like The Devils Been Talkin’ that you put on repeat to find out what it’s saying. Someone later asked on the NEEDTOBREATHE Facebook Page, “I’ve always loved that song, but what does it mean?” I explained what I believed the intent of the song to be based on the lyric.
The writer can create a powerful, authentic picture for others to ponder. That may be our biggest challenge.
How do you address the human condition in your writing? What good examples have you found in music, writing and art?
Ashley Soden is the director of Write/Create, Inc.. When she's not writing, she's living life to the full with her husband and three energetic kids.