Art, too, has its martyrs and perhaps our greatest pain is that of inadequate self-expression. That’s an insight from Iris Murdoch and it holds true,
I believe, for almost everyone.
Inside each of us there’s a great symphony, a great novel, a great dance, a great poem, a great painting, a great book of wisdom, a depth that we can never adequately express. No matter our wit or talent, we can never really write that book, do that dance, create that music or paint that painting. We try, but what we are able to express even in our best moments is but a weak shadow of what’s actually inside us. And so we suffer, in Murdoch words, a martyrdom of inadequate self-expression.
What underlies this? Why this inadequacy?
At its root, this is not a struggle with what’s base or deficient inside us: pride, concupiscence, arrogance or ignorance. It’s not ignorance, arrogance or the Devil that creates this struggle. On the contrary, we struggle with this tension because we carry divinity inside us.
We are made in the image and likeness of God. This is fundamental to our Christian self-understanding. But this must be properly understood. We do ourselves a disservice when we understand this in an over-pious way, that is, when we imagine it as a holy icon of God stamped inside our souls which we need to honour by living a chaste and moral life. That’s true enough, but there’s more at stake here, particularly as it pertains to our self-understanding.
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