DLS MoM XI
From Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, “XI. Problem Picture”
[Quoting, L. P. Jacks, Stevenson Lectures, 1926–7]
Like “happiness,”. . . “problem” and “solution” are not found in the Bible—a point which gives to that wonderful literature a singular charm and cogency. . . . Let the valiant citizen never be ashamed to confess that he has no “solution of the social problem” to offer to his fellow-men. Let him offer them rather the service of his skill, his vigilance, his fortitude and his probity. For the matter in question is not, primarily, a “problem,” nor the answer to it a “solution.”
If we conclude that creative mind is in fact the very grain of the spiritual universe . . . we cannot stop our investigations with the man who happens to work in stone, or paint, or music, or letters. We shall have to ask ourselves whether the same pattern is not also exhibited in the spiritual structure of every man and woman. And, if it is, whether, by confining the average man and woman to uncreative activities and an uncreative outlook, we are not doing violence to the very structure of our being. . . .
The words “problem” and “solution,” as commonly used, belong to the analytic approach to phenomena, and not to the creative. . . .
Human situations are subject to the law of human nature, whose evil is at all times rooted in its good, and whose good can only redeem, but not abolish its evil. The good that emerges from a conflict of values cannot arise from the total condemnation or destruction of one set of values, but only from the building of a new value, sustained, like an arch, by the tension of the original two. We do not, that is, merely examine the data to disentangle something that was in them already: we use them to construct something that was not there before: neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. . . .
[Quoting A. D. Lindsay, The Two Moralities]
In the morality of my stations and duties [i.e. of the moral code] the station presents us with the duty, and we say “Yes” or “No.” “I will” or “I will not.” We choose between obeying or disobeying a given command. In the morality of challenge or grace the situation says, “Here is a mess, a crying evil, a need! What can you do about it?” We are asked not to say “Yes” or “No” or “I will” or “I will not,” but to be inventive, to create, to discover something new. The difference between ordinary people and saints is not that saints fulfil the plain duties which ordinary men neglect. The things saints do have not usually occurred to ordinary people at all. . . . “Gracious” conduct is somehow like the work of an artist. It needs imagination and spontaneity. It is not a choice between presented alternatives but the creation of something new.
Hamlet [or St. Paul’s Cathedral] is . . . more than the sum of its problems; [it is] a living power. . . .
The only two things we can do with death are, first: to postpone it, which is only partial solution, and, secondly, to transfer the whole set of values connected with death to another sphere of action—that is, from time to eternity. . . .
There is never any point in time that can conclude or comprehend the Idea. The problem is never so solved that it is abolished: but each time it is restated, a new thing is made and signed with the formula “Q.E.F.&rdquo [quod erat faciendum, which was to be done].
The desire to solve a living problem by a definitive and sterile conclusion is natural enough: it is part of the material will to death. . . .
The mind in the act of creation is . . . not concerned to solve problems within the limits imposed by the terms in which they are set, but to fashion a synthesis which includes the whole dialectics of the situation in a manifestation of power. In other words, the creative artist, as such, deals not with the working of the syllogism, but with that universal statement which forms its major premise. That is why he is always a disturbing influence; for all logical argument depends upon acceptance of the major premise, and this, by nature, is not susceptible of logical proof. The hand of the creative artist, laid upon the major premise, rocks the foundations of the world; and he himself can indulge in this perilous occupation only because his mansion is not in the world but in the eternal heavens. . . .
So far as I conform to the pattern of [fallen] human society, I feel myself also to be powerless and at odds with the universe; while so far as I conform to the pattern of my true nature, I am at odds with human society, and it with me. If I am right in thinking that human society is out of harmony with the law of its proper nature, then my experience again corroborates that of the theologians, who have also perceived this fundamental dislocation in man. . . .
If you ask me what is this pattern which I recognize as the true law of my nature, I can suggest only that it is the pattern of the creative mind—an eternal Idea, manifested in material form by an unresting Energy, with an outpouring of Power that at once inspires, judges, and communicates the work; all these three being one and the same in the mind and one and the same in the work. And this, I observe, is the pattern laid down by the theologians as the pattern of the being of God. . . .
The artist is crucified by tyrannies and quietly smothered by bureaucracies. . . . [2004: the artist is now a bureaucrat.]
As for the common man, the artist is nearer to him than the man of any other calling, since his vocation is precisely to express the highest common factor of humanity—that image of the Creator which distinguishes the man from the beast. . . .