Works of art are external to their creators, and this is a glorious thing. If we could not understand or appreciate a human creation outside of its creator, then our experiences would be attenuated immeasurably. This is true because not only is a work of art a distillation of the artist’s experience, it is also not his or her totality. For example, the man who wrestles with lust may choose to write poetry that never addresses the subject, and so should we not enjoy what he has made because he falls prey to a vice that we abhor? The spirit of the seeker is important here; the legalist (on one side) and the atheist (on the other side) cannot benefit because both remain closed to anything outside of their narrow perspectives. However, Truth rejoices wherever she is heard.
Thus created works have lives of a sort outside of their creators. Their popularity may wax and wane as they fall into and out of favor, but they endure past the life of the creator. Homer’s works still reach those who are willing to listen, as do all those of centuries past.
What we do echoes forward and artists may feel this weight more so than others. It is a dread responsibility to know that you are not only affecting those around you but those yet to be born. We are created in the image of God, and in this, we are like him: we too are creators. Yet what we create is not like us, for it is only a part of us, and it is subject to the constraints of story or song. The works testify to life, but they themselves are not alive, as their creators are; I feel the pain of Dr. Frankenstein – despite all his attempts to create something like him, he could not create another man. His work came out bizarre and foul, and as a result, he despised himself. Not all of us are doomed to such horrible failures, yet, what we create is not our equal. We cannot even have fellowship with it, as God can with man; yet it echoes forward nonetheless.
There is a peace in the center, in functioning as artistic souls as we were created to be and meant to be. If we try to be God we will bring ruin upon ourselves and fail; if we bury our gifts in the ground, we fail. We sing and speak but for a time, yet our works will live outside ourselves and will sing still even when we have ascended and taken on greater life still.