Why Poetry?: Examining the Merits of Poetical Philosophy

Boethius was in mourning of life
Till Philosophy comes and cures his strife
With poetry and prose, instruments used
For thinking pure thoughts to be cured.
Though Plato says “Boo! Poetry’s an imitation to you,”
The Lady replies, “Poetry raises man’s mind
And gives a glimpse of the divine.”

This whimsical poem demonstrates a difference between two philosophies on the nature of poetry. Many people when thinking of philosophy do not think of poetry. In fact, Plato banishes poetry from the perfect state for its imitational and emotional components, which would be unbeneficial to the philosopher who examines reality with reason. Nevertheless, Boethius, a Platonist himself, claims and demonstrates through his very usage of poetry in The Consolation of Philosophy that poetry is an appropriate instrument of philosophy. Surprisingly, Lady Philosophy herself illustrates this concept by engaging in poetry. To appropriately examine this dilemma, one would have to examine the nature and purpose of poetry. Although it appears that poetry is a mere imitation and distraction from reality, I think that poetry is an appropriate and beneficial instrument of philosophy, because poetry is the sanctification of language, thereby enabling the mind to transcend the self.

According to Plato, poetry would essentially be a distraction for philosophers. He affirms that all art, including poetry, is an imitation of reality and thus cannot depict actual knowledge. In the Republic, Plato through the character of Socrates banishes poetry from the perfect state asserting that the poet “uses names and phrases to color each of the arts. He himself doesn’t understand; but he imitates in such a way as to seem, to men whose condition is like his own and who observe only speeches, to speak very well . . . using meter, rhythm, and harmony” (601a). To Plato, the poet beautifies language to deceive people into believing his words. Hence, poetry according to Plato may be considered a deception because one who engages in poetry wastes effort and emotion on an imitation of reality. Based on these ideas, one would have to agree that poetry cannot be beneficial to philosophy because a philosopher is one who loves wisdom and reality. It would thus be contradictory that a philosopher would engage in poetry.

Furthermore, it appears that poetry primarily influences emotion as opposed to the intellect. Aristotle, though he differs from Plato, claims that the purpose of art involves the direction of emotion. In Poetics, Aristotle states that all forms of art are imitations that differ “from one another in three respects—the medium, the objects, the manner or mode of imitation” (1.1). This statement indicates that art must primarily involve emotion since these techniques naturally imitate emotions that are appropriate to the idea imitated. For instance, a poem may be written in iambic pentameter to give feelings of normal speech or there may be certain words with accents that produce designated feelings. If poetry inherently involves emotions, poetry ought not to have a place in philosophy since philosophy focuses on reason as opposed to emotion.

However, art is more than an imitation. It is an image through which man is able to express the self. Imitation is a technique used to create the effects in art and is not the art itself. This is seen in the fact that art is not merely effects since these effects are always directed towards an idea expressed in the art. The artist is one who expresses an experience in an image, such as in painting, music, or poetry. By creating an image which by being an image expresses itself, the artist mentally acknowledges his own experience. All people experience through the mental acknowledgement of an image because experience requires knowledge. If one knows about an experience, one must have mentally acknowledged an image in the mind. This is why in a work of art an experience may feel more realistic than an experience drawn inartistically; the artist due to his skill of technique provides a greater and more coherent way for man to relay an image to the mind. In a sense, all people who think and express are artists, but the ones who are artistic express themselves more accurately. In her essay “Toward a Christian Esthetic,” Dorothy Sayers states that the poet “is a man who not only suffers the impact of external events but also experiences them. He puts the experience into words in his own mind, and in doing so recognizes the experience for what it is” (162). Sayers observes that the poet creates recognition through an expression in words. For poetry in particular, man is able to experience and thereby know through the language in a poem. All thoughts are in words, meaning that man’s capacity to experience and know is determined by his usage of correct and appropriate words. Because the aim of poetry is to piece together these correct and appropriate words, poetry is therefore a proper instrument to draw the self to experience truth and wisdom.

In spite of Aristotle’s claims, a philosopher can engage in poetry without sacrificing the integrity of thought. Gerard O’Daly observes that in The Poetry of Boethius that “sweet, soft song and grave seriousness of purpose are . . . not incompatible” (33). Since poetry primarily expresses the idea it images forth, there is nothing inherently wrong or emotional with the use of poetry, but with the poet expressing the idea. An example of this is found in The Consolation of Philosophy when Boethius invokes the Muses of Poetry. Boethius in his grief states, “I who once with joyful zeal / Am driven by to enter weeping mode” (1). The anguish that Boethius encapsulates in his poem is not a result of his use of poetry, but rather a result of the “barren thorns of Passion” (4). Banishing the Muses of Poetry, Lady Philosophy states, “Sirens is a better name for you and your deadly enticements: be gone, and leave him for my own Muses to heal and cure” (5). In this demand, Philosophy indicates since she has her own Muses that certain poetry can be used in philosophy. This is demonstrated when Lady Philosophy expresses philosophical statements in poetic form. Philosophy states describing the knowledge of God:

What is, what was, what is to be,
In one swift glance His mind can see.
All things by Him alone are seen,
And Him the true sun we should deem. (119)

In these lines, Philosophy depicts the omniscience of God in poetic verse. This does not hinder the integrity of wisdom since it is a serious poem unhindered by passion. As seen in Lady Philosophy’s use of poetry, there is no issue in using poetry to express philosophy.

On the other hand, it may appear that Boethius’ poetry is merely for emotional healing as opposed to philosophy itself. According to Aristotle, the purpose of art is to produce the appropriate emotional responses. Aristotle states referring to the use of proper language in Tragedy, “in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play . . . through pity and fear [effect] the proper purgation of these emotions (1.6). Through artistic poetry, man is able to respond correctly to the depicted image depending on how the image is portrayed. If this is the purpose of art, poetry ought to be a result of philosophy as opposed to an instrument.

According to Boethius, however, poetry is not merely for emotional healing. C.S. Lewis observes in The Discarded Image that all that is in the Consolation is meant purely for philosophy as part of the disciplines and propriety of his trade since it is certain that Boethius chose to write philosophically (77). This indicates that his philosophy and thus the poetry he uses are not for mere emotional healing. This can be observed in the last poem that Boethius delivers in the dialogue, which contains no mention of the self and gives complete focus to philosophy (123). This type of poetry is fitting in philosophy because in philosophy one is focused on truth. Boethius therefore considers poetry as an instrument in philosophy.

Of course, one may argue that poetic form would hinder the freedom of language and thought that is found in prose. Prose is surely simpler than poetry since it is without meter and form. Surely, there is a certain beauty in the freedom of words since prose is the natural form of language. People do not speak naturally in poetic verse. Hence, prose would be simpler to understand and thus a better form of expression in philosophy.

Conversely, poetic form is the sanctification of language and therefore thought. It is a better form of expression than prose simply because it is meant to be spoken. Since all thoughts are in words, all thoughts involve images produced by the senses. When a person thinks of a word, that person in his mind produces an image of sound, sight, touch, smell, or taste that corresponds to that word. By engaging in poetry, one expresses an image far more complete since poetry improves the image of one’s words. Poetry involves the use of breath, tongue, lip, and teeth to express with sound and rhythm an image far more meaningful than mere prose. In a poem, phrases are intentionally formed so that the sound and rhythm of one’s words express an image accurately. Poetical images in this sense portray one’s experiences much more truthfully because they further utilize the capabilities of language to express the whole of one’s experience and relay a better image to the mind. By engaging in poetical philosophy, one therefore better expresses the beauty of wisdom. Boethius states to Philosophy, “You are the greatest comfort for exhausted spirits. By the weight of your tenets and delightfulness of your singing you have so refreshed me that I now think myself capable of facing the blows of Fortune” (47). Lady Philosophy through poetry is able to express philosophical conclusions with the beauty of words. Because man’s capacity to understand is determined by the capabilities of his language that form his thoughts, the beauty of wisdom is therefore better expressed in the beauty of words. Since wisdom is beautiful, the words of man ought to express this beauty as well, especially if man desires to appreciate wisdom to his greatest capacity. Poetry is therefore the purification of language and thought in that it expresses one’s ideas more adequately than prose.

It is in the very form and conventions of poetry that the mind of man transcends itself. In The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G. K. Chesterton, Gabriel Syme, a philosopher and poet, rebukes the anarchist poet who abandons all conventions and laws in poetry by stating:

It is you who are unpoetical . . . The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train may indeed go anywhere . . . But man is a magician and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria and lo! It is Victoria (4–5).

In this monologue, Chesterton illustrates the beauty of order and convention. It is the victory of man to have order and convention because that is where goodness and truth lie. In language, man’s victory is therefore found in the very order and conventions of poetry. Man essentially “hits the mark” in poetry where his expression of an idea is one with the form, sound, and rhythm of his words. Lady Philosophy states:

For I have swift and speedy wings
With which to mount the lofty skies,
And when the mind has put them on
The earth below it will despise[.] (86)

The aim of philosophy is to raise the mind of man to transcend the self, meaning that one will gaze upon the divine and understand truth. Since man thinks in words, the usage of poetry improves man’s capacity for meaning in language and therefore thought. As a result, man is able in poetical philosophy to further experience the divine and thus achieve victory in thought by beholding the divine with a poetical image.

In poetical philosophy, man further conforms to the likeness of God by imitating this cosmic idea of expression as seen in the Trinity. In poetry, the words of man become flesh as they are imaged forth in being spoken. St. Augustine, a prominent bishop and theologian from the early church, states in Confessions that the Word is “spoken eternally and by it all things are uttered eternally” (226). Since the Word as the image of God is eternally spoken, it is conclusively part of the nature of God to express Himself through the Word. The Word is one with God in being an image. Man therefore through poetry imitates the divine because in poetry the images of his words become one with his ideas. It is thus a part of man’s nature to know the self through the images man produces in words. The words of man become flesh in being spoken and a truthful image when attuned to one’s ideas. By attuning one’s words to reality in poetical philosophy, one therefore imitates God in a cosmic idea of expression where the meaning of one’s ideas and the image of one’s words are one.

In conclusion, although one may condemn poetry as unfit for philosophy for its imitational and therefore deceptive qualities, poetry is a justifiable and beneficial instrument of philosophy because poetry, the sanctification of language, enables the mind to transcend and experience the divine. Art itself is more than mere imitation; it is the expression of an image through which man is able to come to know reality and the self. In poetry, one better expresses knowledge because there is a greater capacity to express the self; poetry is meant to be spoken such that it involves the use of sound and rhythm to express an image far more meaningful than mere prose. Although the forms and conventions of poetry may appear to hinder the freedom of thought, poetry is in actuality the victory of man through which man is able to express the meaning of his ideas and in expressing philosophy to the self, transcend earthly things to view the divine. Through poetical philosophy, man imitates this cosmic idea of expression as seen in the incarnation where the Word became flesh. Poetry is thus a beneficial instrument of philosophy because in poetical philosophy, man accomplishes greater heights. In other words, man achieves victory in thought.

Music: the Food of Love

For these past few months, I studied and researched the philosophy of music for my final presentation on Dante’s Purgatory. This study is one of my favorites as I am a musician. After researching poetry last semester, I realized that I had not developed a philosophy for music, which is the reason why I decided to study music this semester. In this presentation, I argue that music in Purgatory is for the purification of the soul as opposed to the mere sway of emotion. My major sources include Dante’s Divine ComedyThe Fundamentals of Music by Boethius, The Republic by Plato, and Treatise on Happiness by Aquinas. The words below contain some of my overall thoughts on the nature of music and its effects on the soul.

Music is the abstract art of sound. For there to be music, there must be harmony because music is created through the harmonious union of pitch and time. Harmony is the relation between objects. Of course, there is dissonance music. However, dissonance exists through some degree of order since there must be at least two notes that are unified, and thus in harmony, to be dissonant. Dissonance is by definition a clash between components. Music as an art form is abstract because it does not refer to language; although language is an ordering of vowels and consonants, the music of language would refer to the pitch and rhythm of one’s voice rather than speech itself. Music therefore does not pertain to certain situations and is thus an abstract art.

The harmony of music is analogous to the harmony within man. According to Boethius, there is music in everything that exists because everything that exists has harmony. It is through harmony that everything exists because in order for something to exist, its components must be formed harmoniously according to its proper nature. Thus, harmony within music is the same as the harmony within the universe and soul. Boethius further argues that harmony is capable of depicting the states of man. This can be seen in the harmonious union of reason, sentiment, and instinct in man. It is through this harmony that man reasons, feels, and acts. This concept can be seen in the fact that people are attracted to music that pertains to their situation; the harmony of music is then in conjunction with the harmony within man. As a result, music is capable of influencing the soul at its core. Since music and man are created in a similar likeness, man by contemplating certain harmonies within music, contemplates a certain type of harmony that can be found within the self.

Since music expresses harmony, music produces proper sentiment. Sentiments are trained dispositions that determine one’s knowledge of qualities. The development of sentiment is important for the soul because it produces proper responses to ideas such as being awed by beauty or loving truth. Music trains the sentiments by associating sentiments with certain ideas.

The sentiments produced by music are indeed proper because music expresses the Forms. The Forms are abstract, universal concepts distinct from space and time. They are qualities that objects share such as goodness, beauty, and justice. Music expresses the Forms because harmony, melody, and rhythm are capable of communicating universal ideas in abstract forms. This is evident since music is a universal language such that a quality depicted musically is universally received as that quality. For instance, music that depicts happiness can be translated into several instances of joy because that music depicts happiness itself. Because music is an abstract art, the ideas expressed musically are the Forms of these ideas because music expresses the nature of qualities. Music therefore produces proper sentiment because these sentiments are proper responses to the Forms.

Music is therefore a means to behold goodness. As stated before, music produces proper sentiment. In Dante’s Purgatory and Paradise, music is configured to associate wonder and love with goodness. Music itself is an endeavor to experience goodness, since people naturally are pleased by harmonious sounds, which is goodness, while cringing at dissonance. Hence, in music man learns to behold goodness in a truer form by associating the positive sentiments of wonder and love with goodness.

Thoughts on Poetry

Boethius was in mourning of life

Till Philosophy comes and cures his strife

With poetry and prose, instruments used

For thinking pure thoughts to be cured

Though Plato says, “Boo! Poetry’s an imitation to you,”

The Lady replies, “Poetry raises man’s mind

And gives a glimpse of the divine.”

This was a poem I wrote for my presentation on poetry. Overall, I thought it was a successful presentation. It was a lot of fun. I originally was not very interested in poetry so this was a new topic for me. Anyways, the following are some of my conclusions about poetry and its use in philosophy.

Poetry is more than an imitation. It is rather the expression of an image through which man is able to know his ideas. Imitation is a technique used to create art and is not the art itself. This can be seen in the fact that art is always directed towards an idea which is beyond the technique used. The images that man creates become his knowledge and of course by being an image it expresses itself. In the case of poetry, the words used become a way of thinking about an idea. In a sense, all people who think and express are artists. However, the ones who are more artistic are the ones who express themselves more accurately.

Poetry sanctifies language and therefore thought. As art, it expresses through meter, rhyme, rhythm, etc., which in turn further infuses meaning into one’s words. Words always portray an image. Through poetry, this image can be further expressed. For example, rhymes can be used to connect ideas or the rhythm may be used to express certain feelings. Man’s thoughts are in a language, whether that be in words or pictures. By bettering words, one betters thought. In a way, poetical images are much more truthful since they communicate far more in its technique. It sanctifies language in which it conforms the poetical image of our words to our ideas.

Therefore, poetry is a useful instrument in philosophy since if one betters thought one betters understanding. Through the beauty of words, one is able to express the beauty of wisdom. Since wisdom is beautiful, one’s language and thus thoughts ought to reflect this beauty. In poetical images, man is able to behold the beauty of wisdom. Plato describes the philosopher as one who loves wisdom. Poetry is a means to express the beauty of wisdom and thus to love wisdom.

By using poetry, one imitates this cosmic idea of expression as seen in the Incarnation where the Word became flesh. The Word is the image of God and as St. Augustine describes is being expressed eternally. In poetry, one’s words become flesh merely because it is spoken. Poetry involves the use of breath, tongue, teeth, and lip to express an image. In this sense, our words become incarnated. Hence, one imitates the idea of the Incarnation through poetry.

I consider poetry, and all art for that matter, the victory of man. In art, man “hits the mark” where the meaning of one’s ideas are expressed artistically and truthfully. It is in the very order and conventions of art that man reaches greater heights. Essentially, order and convention are goodness. Thus, in poetry man achieves victory in thought.

Is Manipulation Okay?

So I am taking a class on Shakespeare and one of the questions asked for As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing was whether or not manipulation is ever okay. Of course, it is granted that not all manipulation is right. Those who persuade others to do wrong are not acting in love towards one another. And yet, it seems that there may be manipulation that is justifiable.

First of all, I do not associate manipulation necessarily with deceit. Deceit often involves manipulation. However, not all manipulation is deceitful. For example, a person in a speech may place jokes here and there to cause people to laugh. This can be considered manipulation and yet it is without deceit. The jokes merely present hilarious phrases that call for laughter. Hence, I will consider manipulation as presentation, the way one communicates ideas that may be either true or false.

It is given that man is influenced by many things in life. This includes friends, music, art, circumstances, etc. It is also true that people are influenced by what people say, which is often how people are manipulated for better or for worse. One of the questions asked during class is whether or not this takes away free will. I do not think any persuasion from mere mortals can accomplish this. If manipulation or influence could take away the will of man, man would be like an animal or anything in nature for that matter. He would react based upon various stimuli, which would imply that man’s actions are dictated by nature and hence without choice. However, it is seen that man is able to make choices since he is able to make wrong choices which would be against nature. Since man is able to make choice, any action taken is the responsibility of the person who acts as opposed to circumstance and manipulation. Of course, it is granted that the person who manipulates and causes others to stumble is not without guilt. However, any person who is manipulated is nevertheless responsible for his own actions.

No person can be without influence, especially since man bases his actions on experiences. It would be worse to be without influence because that would mean for one to be without knowledge since knowledge is influential. It is man’s responsibility to choose the surroundings in his life. Man ought to therefore choose wisely to the best of his ability the most beneficial circumstances.

Why Study?

To SRHI,

What are you eating? There was a passage that I was reading in 1 Corinthians that I thought would be good to share with all of you. Paul states in 1 Cor. 3.1−3:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready; for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

As they are dependent upon others for all their needs, infants are always being fed until they learn to feed themselves. In the same way, the spiritually young are unable to feed themselves with the Word of God. Of course, believers are not meant to stay young in the faith. Believers are meant to grow in their faith. However, in spite of this, many do remain young due to their lack of biblical and theological knowledge, which is what I hope to address in the following thoughts.

The reason why I want to draw attention to the importance of studying Scripture is because there is so much to know. Our knowledge of Scripture and therefore of God is the foundation of our Christian walk. Scripture is not the end goal (that would be Christ), but it is a means to Christ. As we start the new school year, I hope to encourage all of you to grow in studying God and His Word diligently as part of conforming to the likeness of God. Now is the time for us to really focus on learning how to study Scripture as we become thinking, adult Christians.

What I hope to address in the following paragraphs is really why we as followers of Christ need to study Scripture. The main point that I want to get across is this: scriptural knowledge is the foundation for our faith which therefore is necessary for a higher level of communion with God and spiritual guidance.

Sermons and Sunday school lessons are not meant to be the whole of our Christian education. Of course, we do need each other and most importantly, what the other person knows of God, but it is not enough to always be sitting in lectures, to always being fed as opposed to learning to feed ourselves. Oftentimes, we hear people disagree on what the Bible means in certain passages. One thing that we do not want is to take someone else’s word on what the Bible means based on their authority, especially when it is something as important as our knowledge of God and His Word. Besides that, should we ever be satisfied with knowing only what the teachers know? Of experiencing God secondhand through the teacher’s experience? When we only listen to lectures for our Christian education instead of reading the Word for ourselves, we are not forming our own beliefs of who God is, but a conglomeration of other people’s experience. Until we wrestle with our faith and come to our own conclusions as to why we believe what we believe, our faith is not our own. The only way for us to develop our own beliefs is to read from the Word itself and come to an understanding of who God is. The teachers have already struggled with their questions of who God is to them. If we have not, then we are experiencing secondhand accounts of God. We have the living Word in our hands through which we can hear the very voice of God. To put it simply, like any other great book we want to hear Scripture in the author’s own voice, especially since Scripture is the greatest book. Of course, we can hear the voice of God elsewhere, but Scripture itself is the means that God has given us to commune with Him, to be conscientiously aware of His presence.

This leads me into my second point. The Bible is a means for us to know, love, and commune with God. As seen in the passage above, God does not mean for us to remain infants in the faith. This is apparent. What is less apparent is that our knowledge of the Word determines our capacity to love God. In order for us to love anything, we must know what or who it is. Can a person love what he does not know? If we do not know the object we claim to love, we love a false image. Consequently, if we do not know who God is, we do not love God, but a false image of God. In order to spend time with God, we therefore need to know who He is. Biblical studies enable us to know and therefore love who God is.

Hence, personal study is essential to being a good Christian because it functions as the core of one’s faith. One’s knowledge of Scripture and God is meant to be the foundation for all thought and actions, which leads me into my third point. We act based on what we believe. We know what is right based upon what we know of God ultimately because God defines goodness. When we are without knowledge of God and hence virtue, we may commit acts of virtue, but we will not be virtuous ourselves. One is never accidentally virtuous. If we blindly follow the lead of others who tell us what is right without studying why, we may not be committing wrong, but we are certainly not committing any right. The person who commits right acts without right reason does not seem to me to be a good Christian. We are responsible for our beliefs and consequently our actions. If we do not study the Word, do we know why we love God and others? How we are to live in the City of Man while being a citizen of the City of God? Can we be conformed to the likeness of God without knowledge of God?

In conclusion, we ought to be Christian scholars because we cannot expect to be good and virtuous Christians without personal study. One way in which we can enhance our pursuit is by spending time reading and studying the Word of God, asking questions, and discussing the various passages with others. When we have this burning passion to know God more, we may as a group even want to pursue theological studies. As we become adult Christians, we should be able to articulate our faith and know what is in Scripture. In the end, we will be held accountable for our beliefs by God such that we are going to have to answer to God why we believed what we believed. After all, God commands each of us to love Him with all of one’s mind.

Can Darkness be Beautiful?

During a class discussion, we were asked whether darkness could be beautiful and whether it was good to have darkness in the arts. By darkness, we meant all things evil, troubling, tragic, etc. For the first question, my answer was that darkness itself is not beautiful, but the goodness that is seen more clearly in the darkness. My answer to the second question was that it was not good to have darkness in the arts because the arts have such an influence over the soul and the piece of art could be so much more beautiful if there was more goodness. Yet it almost seems as if there is a necessity for tragedy to be realized. Right now, I should like to focus on my answer to the second question while reviewing the first for context.

I do not believe that darkness itself can be beautiful mainly because beauty consists of goodness and can only be seen through light. I wonder if people would like the night sky as much if it was pure black and without stars. In both physical and mental darkness, one cannot distinguish and therefore is unable to think. If one is unable to think, one is unable to appreciate beauty. Since darkness is never actually pursued for the sake of darkness itself, there must not be beauty within darkness; otherwise, darkness would be pursuable for its own sake. If anything is found beautiful, there must be a degree of light/goodness. From this, I inferred that any darkness in the arts that is found beautiful must be a result of goodness being shown more clearly because of the surrounding darkness.

Now, to the second question I answered that it is not good for darkness to be in the arts. In class, it was mentioned that there seems to be a danger in that the arts would cause one to desire darkness. This would be misleading. Tragedy is never beautiful to the person experiencing it. Surely, if there is any beauty in tragic things, one would have to be outside of the tragedy to notice it. For example, The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe may be written beautifully, but to the person who experiences what the character in the poem experiences, it is anything but beautiful. As seen in The Raven or in other tragic works, darkness in the arts can be misleading. My second reason was that it seems art can be so much more beautiful if there is more good. As stated before, beauty is measured by goodness. Hence, the degree of beauty is parallel to its degree of goodness. Art that is the most good would then be the most beautiful. In general, it seems best for people to live in an environment that is the most beautiful.

However, I believe that I was mistaken in believing that there cannot be goodness in recognizing tragedy. Humanity is fallen and that is tragic. It is a tragedy that should not be overlooked or disregarded. In fact, it is seen to be the cause of all tragedies and human frailties, including the need to be healed through tragedy. I think this is illustrated well in The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. In the story, the narrator and fellow passengers on the bus become ghosts upon reaching Reality. They did not, however, become ghosts but as the narrator realizes, they were always ghosts compared to Reality. The grass does not bend beneath their feet and the apples are too heavy to lift. Throughout this story, the Solid people bid them stay, saying that they can learn to walk upon the grass and enjoy the place and eventually become solid. Now in a sense the ghosts’ situation may be considered tragic; they are only shadows and have yet to experience Reality. Their path to salvation is tragic as well because they have to experience pain to be able to become solid. Their pain is a necessary result of seeing Reality and also the start of their healing. The ghost would have to realize his or her tragic state to want to become solid. Tragedy, in this case the recognition of one’s broken self compared to the divine, is a necessary consequence of seeing the divine.

I think this may be the reason (or at least part of the reason) people fear angels upon meeting them. Perhaps man is unable to bear the divine directly. Angels might be too happy for us to see without tragedy. Perhaps tragedy is the method by which we are healed and able to bear the divine. Of course, we cannot be free from tragedy yet. That would mean that we would have to be free from love and therefore Love Himself as Lewis writes. Art may then be a means to see tragedy correctly. Tragedy itself may be a gift to mankind, for man only repents upon realizing the need to.