Music, when soft voices die

THE TASK OF EDITING other people’s creativity has struck me with unanticipated reverence. As an editor, I feel much as I did as a godmother, when a friend handed me her six-day-old infant to hold through his entire Latin Rite baptism. Conducting newborn art into editorial initiation stirs me with gratitude and trepidation. The process has also challenged my understanding of what it means to create, and to have been created.

It is not unusual to hear art described as a deeply personal endeavor. However, I have begun to suspect that art is not personal at all—it is relational. We view art as personal because it responds to our innate yearning for fulfillment. Yet, to address this ache of inner incompleteness, we must direct our efforts outward. My arm is personal, because it is part of my person, but a child in my arms is relational; his separateness creates the possibility of a relationship that can complete me in ways in which I cannot complete myself.

Art is not an appendage, but an aspiration. It is our cry for a relationship that will console our deepest sorrow, exalt our highest joy, and satisfy our hunger for perfection. Artistry gives voice to the implausible, but persistent notion that our “little life” is not rounded with a void, but rests in the embrace of some infinite Mystery. Whether or not we believe in immortality, it is difficult to deny our desire for relationship with an ultimately loving, life-giving Other. Creativity expresses (however unintentionally), our longing for eternity, because it memorializes our most intimate thoughts and emotions. As Shelly explains:

Music, when soft voices die

Even art that has been lost or destroyed possesses a kind of immortality, so long as it exists in relationship with a rememberer. Music cannot be unplayed, nor pictures unpainted. We may erase our hastily scribbled words, but we can never un-write them. What has been made cannot be unmade; it lives on in the memory of the maker.

In view of our physical brevity, there is hope in the thought that our spirits survive our bodies through a relationship with an eternal Rememberer. If our souls are, indeed, immortal, it may be because they are the handiwork of an immortal Maker. If our thoughts truly “slumber on”, I suspect that they must do so as memories in the mind of God.


Photo by Emily Duffy