Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mind of the Maker: Love

Straggling behind with the Mind of the Maker book study.....

I am floundering with my reading commitments (February is usually the month when I am most likely to flounder/founder with anything I have taken on) but I really really want to finish Mind of the Maker.  At the beginning of the study, I liked the book but was confused by it.   I don't know whether it's because Dorothy Sayers is hitting her stride or because I am getting more in tune with her theme, but every chapter seems to be better than the one before.

The one I am reading for this week is Chapter 9 The Love of the Creature.

It looks like Cindy read two chapters last week, so I am behind.  But I don't want to go on until I have thought more about this one.    So much there about the person, the writer/artist, and the Creator.

My favorite quote is the same as Cindy's, on sacrifice.

"Sacrifice" is another word liable to misunderstanding. It is generally held to be noble and loving in proportion as its sacrificial nature.. is consciously felt by the person who is sacrificing himself. The direct contrary is the truth. To feel sacrifice consciously as self-sacrifice argues a failure in love. When a job is undertaken from necessity, or from a grim sense of disagreeable duty, the worker is self-consciously aware of the toils and pains he undergoes, and will say: "I have made such and such sacrifices for this." But when the job is a labour of love, the sacrifices will present themselves to the worker-strange as it may seem-in the guise of enjoyment. Moralists, looking on at this, will always judge that the former kind of sacrifice is more admirable than the latter, because the moralist, whatever he may pretend, has far more respect for pride than for love. The Puritan assumption that all action disagreeable to the doer is ipso facto more meritorious than enjoyable action is firmly rooted in this exaggerated valuation set on pride. I do not mean that there is no nobility in doing unpleasant things from a sense of duty, but only that there is more nobility in doing them gladly out of sheer love of the job. The Puritan thinks otherwise; he is inclined to say, "Of -course So-and-so works very hard and has given up a good deal for such -and-such a cause, but there's no merit in that-he enjoys it." The merit, of course, lies precisely in the enjoyment, and the nobility of So-and-so consists in the very fact that he is the kind of person to whom the doing of that piece of work is delightful."
The moment when I suddenly realized that virtue is not the same as forcing one to do something one dislikes still reverberates in my mind.   It was just that shocking to me, and it was only about a decade or so ago.     I had read it through Aquinas.  It was as counter-intuitive as Einstein's theory of relativism, yet once seen, just as hard to deny.    I am still trying to work through all the implications because the opposite idea had become so entrenched in my outlook.   I suppose it is because I am wicked that most good things seem like matters of law and punishment to me.      But in the real nature of things, it is not so.    The Psalmist writes that the law of the Lord is his delight, and this isn't servility or empty rhetoric;  Jesus said that His food was to do the will of the Father.   Very unlike me, who quails from law and prefers junk food to nourishment. 

Anyway, Sayers makes it easier for me to understand by analogy to the human artisan, because art is an area where one feels the joy of toil.    Loving one's family often works this way too.  One finds oneself not just accepting, but embracing hardship.    Not always and continuously, but in certain moments, when it becomes clear that one is SO BLESSED to be able to stay up all night in a hospital with a child in critical condition, say.   One understands how the merchant gladly sold everything he had to gain that pearl of great price, how he would feel that he got by FAR the better part of the bargain.

Because I am wavering and inconsistent, I can never carry this truth very far in my life, but I know it is true even when I have dropped the banner and am grubbing around trying to pick it up again.

In general, this chapter reminds me of CS Lewis and Chesterton (both of whom, indeed, she quotes in the chapter), where many, many rich thoughts are dropped into a few paragraphs.    You also get to learn that you should never offer fine brandy to Sayers just because Lord Peter appreciates it, and that Wimsey will probably never become a Christian (though I feel that he is an analogy to Christianity in modern England, whether he or Sayers knows it).  I want to end with a couple of her quotes of other authors, both about the terrible nature of love, in spite of modern sentimental and other distortions:

You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the "lord of terrible aspect", is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.- C. S. LEWIS: The Problem of Pain.

In the juvescence of the year
Came Christ the tiger-
a disturbing thought. ( T. S. Eliot: Gerontion)


  1. I absolutely LOVE these quotes Willa! Much food for thought there. I think I've got my Lenten reading figured out now. Not nearly as ambitious as your plans but good enough for my available brain power. I'll be re-reading "Woman of Grace: A Bible Study for Married Women", by Michaelann Martin. I'm looking forward to it!

    1. Thanks Susan! I am trying to plan for Lent too. I like the sound of your Bible study.

  2. I felt guilty reading 2 chapters but I felt I must try and plough through or I would quit. The next couple chapters start with me glassy-eyed but then loving them also. This book is very hard to explain. It is not an easy read but then suddenly it is wonderful.

    I also want to love what is good but find myself often just feeling like I am trying to get over the mountain of myself. I just hope the things I do love are good because of the Gospel.

    1. Thanks Cindy! I think because the book is so unusual, it is difficult to put into a category. I have never read anything even comparable to it. Maritain's book on Art and Scholasticism connects the artist to religion but in a very different way.


We love hearing from our readers. Please share your thoughts or just say hello!