Becky wrote an article over at Speculative Faith, “Are we Still Reading Animal Farm?” She’s talking about politics, communism, socialism, and the novel “Animal Farm,” by George Orwell.
It’s a timely article because I was pondering another question entirely, Why do we write? Does it even matter? Some people almost earn a living at it, so there’s that, but the rest of us who are simply compelled to write, even to scribble on the backs of napkins and bathroom walls if necessary, why do we do it?
Someone asked me that very question. Why do you do it? Do you just have a whole lot to say? I do have a few thousand posts just on this blog alone, and I’ve always written, ever since I was small. I’ve quit too, many times, just thrown in the towel and completely given up.
And then of course, I promptly write about…….how I’m never going to write again. It’s really a lost cause, a compelling need like eating or drinking water. Even when I am not writing, I still cut words out of magazines and put them up on my walls or paint words on rocks and leave them hidden about on pathways and in gardens.
George Orwell asked himself that very question, in fact he wrote an essay called, “Why I Write,” in which he said Animal Farm was his attempt to, “fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.” He listed several reasons why we write, egoism of course, and political purpose. He made a good case suggesting that all writing shows, “a desire to push the world in a certain direction.”
John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is often called “the Word.” The world itself was once spoken into existence….with a word. Life itself was breathed into us…. with a word.
There’s a mystery and celebration about words that often captures my imagination, that reminds me not so much of a, “desire to push the world in a certain direction,” but reminds me far more of the One who is really doing the pushing.
The mysterious ways of the One doing the pushing may have had an impact on Orwell’s, “Animal Farm,” too. It was once called “Animal Farm, a Fairy Story,” and rejected outright by dozens of publishers. The war was raging on at the time and Britain had an alliance with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. Stalin was even admired in certain quarters and then along comes this inconvenient tale, an allegory, but about pigs and communists just the same. It was not welcomed. Than suddenly international relations just shifted and Britain began to slide right into the cold war. The timing was perfect, people were now hungry for some Stalin satire, and the book was a great success.
Much like Becky’s article asks, “are we still reading Animal Farm, “ I too look at some people in the world with their sudden affection for things like socialism, communism, fascism, and think, but don’t you read??! How could you not know these things about the a nature of human behavior? How is it you were not shaped by great literature, by dystopian fairy tales from the barnyard to set your imagination on fire?
I did it again the other day, I tried to give someone a book. A bit funny how people will sometimes pull back, recoil, as if to say, she’s trying to brainwash me, she thinks I’m inadequate in this area, she’s trying to force a book on me. Perhaps that’s partially true, perhaps Becky’s question is always resting in the back of my mind, but honestly my prevailing thought is more like, it’s a book, it will delight your soul!
But then again, it may actually torment your soul. Perhaps you shouldn’t read it all, maybe some things are just best left unknown, maybe ignorance really is bliss. What kind of a woman runs about trying to give people books, books that may well disturb their peace, interrupt their bliss, make them feel uncomfortable?
The very fact that I would even think to ask myself such questions, that I would hesitate to disturb the peace with a book offering, says something about the world we are living in today, a bit of wisdom that is being lost. Truth and beauty often live in that part of our souls where there is torment and suffering, grief and a willingness to actually feel stuff, to experience things outside of our comfort zones.
Truth without the pain of letting go of all those thing we think we know, isn’t really truth at all. Without that willingness to suffer there can be no wisdom gleaned, no great revelations captured about the nature of ourselves and the nature of the Lord we serve. We just become stagnant water, shallow and superficial, trapped in our own deceptions.
A pastor I love once said, sometimes people can be a bit like stinky kitchen sponges, the kind you find hiding in the kitchen all full of stagnant water and smelling the place up. What those stinky kitchens sponges so desperately need it to be rung out and hung up to dry.
Our faith is just like that, if our souls do not get wrung out and hung up to dry periodically, we become like this toxic, smelly thing all full of bacteria, hiding beneath some dirty dishes somewhere, lost and forgotten….
Books can really help to wring out your soul, to open your eyes to things you did not see before, and so too can writing.