The Book of Gold

Indulge me a moment, and let me explain my notion of how art works.

I have written on the topic before, but it bears repeating.

Art is a miracle. It comes from heaven. It cannot have been evolved, because it serves no possible evolutionary function. Selfish genes do not care about symphonies.

Art is an oasis in the dry, sucking wasteland of our miserable lives of hard work, thankless toil, endless failure and disappointment; or a solid rock in the quaking quicksand, drench, and muck of the bog of degrading and sensuous pleasures.

Art is a cool drink of clear wine that frees the mind and grants wings to the imagination and reminds us of our true home, which is beyond the fields we know, beyond the walls of this world.

Art unclogs the ears to let us hear the silver horns of elfland blowing, so that we know this life is not all there is. Science fiction reminds us that the future beckons; fantasy reminds us of the one, true magic of life beyond the curse called death.

I do not write for everyone, or even for most people. I write for the few, or the two, or the one, who needs the particular vintage born of my vineyard and mine alone.

Other readers do not concern me, and I could not make them my concern even if I would. My wine would choke them like gall and wormwood.

Heaven arranges that the one reader who needs me will find me. For him I write, not for you, or for any others.

If readers aside from that one grant me the gracious gift of reading and enjoying my work, that is an extra blessing, and unexpected. They do not need me, any more than a king needs a clown, but if my pratfalls and japes ease the burden of the crown, the royal hand can toss me a small coin. But I do not really write for them either. To them, my book is not the Book of Gold. It just helps their Majesties to pass an idle hour. No shame in that, but there is also nothing more than that in this case.

There is many a man whose tastes I cannot sate and whose writer I will never be.

To him I say, go your way in peace with my blessings: Somewhere is your writer. I am not he.

Your writer has penned somewhere your book which is the one you need that one sad and dreary day when you have forgotten the color of your own soul, and need refreshment, a festive glass, a moment out of time to hold a toast aloft and see the bubbles sparkle.

Go find your favorite book. Heaven has set it aside for you, somewhere, waiting, a book of dreams as bright as diamonds, a trove of treasure.

It will be the best thing you ever read and it will live in your heart forever.

But I cannot write for your tastes even if I had the desire. I am not meant for it. Go your way to yours; leave me to mine.

So I would say to a reader I cannot please. I bear him no illwill, nor should he bear me, even if he overhears the plaudits, no doubt undeserved, he hears me awarded.

If I did not believe in Heaven, I could not believe in true love between men and women, nor in the Book of Gold each reader is specially meant to find. I would be forced to think that this sad and cruel world is the sole world and the whole story: a story told by an idiot and a sadist. I would be forced to conclude that every other man’s happiness diminished mine, and that each victory of his was like the greed of a starving sailor on a lifeboat quarreling over who should eat the last morsel of the cabin boy. In that world, resentment would be the proper response to another man’s good fortune, and envy the proper reaction to his triumph.

To be sure, there are some atheists who do not believe in Heaven, and somehow avoid the sour bog of resentment or the hot hell of envy. Such stature is heroic, because they overcome their animal nature without believing any higher nature exists.

Such magnanimous largeness of soul and largess of heart grows rare and rarer these days. The noble atheists are gone, and the dignified pagans who practice the stoic resignation of their warrior-ancestors. The lamps are dying one by one.

Ah! The thought brings gloom. I think I will go read a book for an hour, and dwell there, and peer out through the crack in the dungeon wall to a brighter world beyond.

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