Art is not a visual illustration of the artist’s worldview. We often presume that a work of art represents the “worldview” of the artist. This is simply untrue. No human being possesses a unified “worldview” that is manifest in and through each of her intentional acts or artifacts she produces. We don’t need art critics to tell us this. We can read the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “the heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it” (Jer 17: 9)? Why then do we presume that every work of art is the product of a particular, distinctive set of “ideas” or a “philosophy” that the artist consciously possesses and that we as viewers can discern? An artist does not paint a picture to express what she already knows or believes. She paints to learn something about herself and the world—something she doesn’t already know. Oscar Wilde wrote that the work of art “has an independent life of its own, and may deliver a message far other than what which was put into its lips to say.” A work of art does not point back to its maker, but looks out to you the viewer. It’s not concerned with beliefs or thoughts of its maker. It’s addressing you and your heart.
[W]e are obliged at a given moment to accept necessary sacrifices. It is a painful thing to say to oneself: by choosing one road I am turning my back on a thousand others. Everything is interesting; everything might be useful; everything attracts and charms a noble mind; but death is before us; mind and matter make their demands; willy-nilly we must submit and rest content as to the things that time and wisdom deny us, with a glance of sympathy which is another act of homage to the truth.
Do not be ashamed to know what you could only know at the cost of scattering your attention. Be humble about it, yes, for it shows our limitations; but to accept our limitations is a part of virtue and gives us a great dignity, that of the man who lives according to his law and plays his part. We are not much, but we are part of a whole and we have the honor of being a part. What we do not do, we do all the same; God does it, our brethren do it, and we are with them in the unity of love….
The half-informed man is not the man who knows only the half of things, but the man who only half knows things. Know what you have resolved to know; cast a glance at the rest. Leave to God, who will look after it, what does not belong to your proper vocation. Do not be a deserter from ourself, through wanting to substitute yourself for all others.
I’m a full-time believer in writing habits, pedestrian as it all may sound. You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away. I see it happen all the time. Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place. This doesn’t mean I produce much out of the two hours. Sometimes I work for months and have to throw everything away, but I don’t think any of that was time wasted. Something goes on that makes it easier when it does come well. And the fact is if you don’t sit there every day, the day it would come well, you won’t be sitting there.
Games are art; players appreciate narrative, experiential depth, the aesthetic, interactivity, the holism of the world inhabited, the truly fun mechanic, the absorbing and satisfying technique, etc. Their appreciation for these things is not merely a matter of time-on-site or dollars spent. And they can tell how much the developers cared about their experience. But that’s not what Zynga attended to; they didn’t engage with or attempt to understand the game industry, the best game design, the love that people have for games. They attempted to “hack” the industry by developing the most pernicious “viral loops” and compulsion-tricks they could, and they bragged about it. Zynga held their audience in contempt; they didn’t think they could tell when they were being exploited; they didn’t think they could distinguish a good game from a bad one! They were proud to psychologically game the people whom they should have had deferential respect for! In sum: Zynga’s relationship with games and gamers was like a pick-up artist’s relationship with women. While it’s true that through iteration and voluminous testing a pick up artist might achieve some temporary “success” that is quantifiably better than regular folks who are looking for love, it’s also true that in time people get hip to the tricks being used on them, resent being exploited, and look elsewhere for real connection and experience.
I could read the Prayer Book and love it but when I attempted the Bible I would recoil, simply unable to believe that anyone would take it as the word of God. When people describe themselves as ‘bible-believing Christians’ I can attach no meaning to the words, except as a label: it’s like being ‘flag-believing Britons’. Similarly, I don’t know what it could possibly mean to believe in a Creator. None of this innoculated my imagination. I have had numerous experiences that would count as conversion if they’d actually converted me. I remember Robert Runcie celebrating a eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral, when it seemed quite irrelevant to ask if it was true: it was clearly something to be part of. At the other end of the scale, a couple of fundamentalists who had given up their lives to working with junky prostitutes in a provincial town broke bread with a quiet prayer over a linoleum tablecloth and that worked too. In Medjugorje I got zapped by the Holy Spirit and was for a while quite speechless with love for my crass and ignorant fellow pilgrims. All this made me think that it didn’t matter whether I called myself a Christian but the Lambeth Conference of 1998 made me resolve not to do so. It was a triumph of the bullies, of the self-important, the vain and the thoughtlessly cruel. I may be a sinner, I thought, but at least I am miserable. I do not wish to be mistaken for a bishop. But the New Atheist movement made it quite clear to me that I’m not one of them, either. I don’t believe that ‘religion’ exists as a coherent category, let alone something which can or should be extirpated. None of this is terribly satisfying. It is natural to suppose that our philosophical conclusions are the distinctive marks of our moral and intellectual excellence, but that doesn’t work for me. I know Christians who are nicer, cleverer, braver and more honest that I am. I even know some who appear to have no difficulty in believing the whole thing backwards and not all of them are Roman Catholic intellectuals. But I still can’t do it myself. So why worry? Why not see it all as nonsense? Because really it isn’t all nonsense: as a friend of mine, a former missionary, said once ‘It’s about the thing that is true even if Christianity isn’t true’. Christian language does things that no other use of language can. I can only conclude that God has called me to be an atheist.