The Nature of the Artist

February 10, 2010
Nathaniel Scriven, a naval captain, looked out from the steer of his ship. He observed the waves breaking against his boat: some breaking softly, as if whispering some age-old secret to the young wood: others, breaking with rage, as if they held some age-old grudge against the vessel. Beyond the waves, he looked out to that intangible horizon, where his destination lay, waiting, like an old maid, for someone finally to find her, to plant the cool kiss of a flag upon her earthy face. Nathaniel Scriven made haste to be that man to claim the New World: to lay it upon the wedding bed of exploration and cherish its chaste treasures of frontier. He would raise a family and village, an exciting, open town there, and remain forever an explorer of worlds, he thought.

Passion lies in all men’s hearts, just as heat lies within each fire. Through his vessel of exploration, through his adventuring across the waves angry and mysterious, his passion had found expression. He would commit himself to unknown lands and expand the limitations on his restless soul until they were no more. In his leadership, his creation of legend, his style of expedition, Nathaniel Scriven would achieve that projection of his soul (the eternity of man’s being) unto nature.

“Land!” a ship hand cried.

“Beautiful,” exclaimed another.

“A masterpiece!” one of the men said.

Nathaniel Scriven turned to his men:

“Fellows. My brave fellows, you undefeatable, intangible essences of eternity. We do not now stand on the verge of the tangible, earthy New World, that flab of dead and dying dirt. No, rather, we stand at the doorway of immortality: we teeter, good fellows, on the edge of legend. Do we dare to climb the staircase, we brethren, we kin? Do we dare to have our names echoed in the dining halls of time, when the men shall not speak of their own affairs but instead stare up at our likeness in portrait, hanging on the walls, and softly whisper to themselves our names, having memorized our feats? I say that we do dare, that we will attain this greatness. This day, my mariners, my princes and nobles, we enter into the New World, the everlasting, beautiful, spiritual New World! We go today to etch our names on that great stone tablet of timelessness, of forever and eternity!”

He, Captain Nathaniel Scriven, forged both on land and in his men’s hearts a New World that day.

Time went by, and could not be blamed for doing so. Nathaniel Scriven took a wife and raised children. He did not remain an explorer, rather, conversely, all his ordinary life in the once New, now old earthy land, he’d felt trapped: his ship, returned to England, his vessel, destroyed by family life. He was akin to a bird with clipped wings, a dog with a muzzle on, a soul in chains. Without an outlet for his passion, he died a broken, baggy-eyed old man. His wife was practical and so gave the late Nathaniel Scriven a respectable but relatively cheap funeral.

“Wasn’t he a capt-“ began a man.

“He was just fine, a fine man,” the widow Scriven interrupted.

“He sailed here on the largest-“ another began.

“Ordinary, kind hard working respectable man,” the widow Scriven said, “Please now, one mustn’t go around exaggerating things. They must be taken for what they are.”

After the funeral, time passed. Children aged. They had children and then those children aged. And the process went on for a good many generations.

In the year of 1920 AD, the late Captain Nathaniel Scriven’s Great-great-great-great-grandson Nathaniel Scriven was born. He did not seem to have any of his namesake’s adventurous qualities – at first. As a boy he hated the coarse land and freezing water – mute tortures to him. Growing up, he quickly became disinterested in his peers, boys deaf to his ideas, hearing only the incomprehensible grunts spoken by those brutes living the unexamined life (no longer human souls; for those who live the unexamined life are simply over developed orangutans, nothing more: devoid of that nameless gift, what the Western man calls the soul). How could Nathaniel Scriven ever be an explorer like his ancestor, family wondered, doubting.

Time, that inexhaustible athlete, sped on and Nathaniel Scriven grew up and grew older. In 1940 A.D., he was 20 years old. Although a man of social isolation, he never felt alone. Society has an odd way of saying whoever spends little time with them is lonely, miserable, or stupid. On the contrary, Nathaniel Scriven was not miserable, stupid, or even alone: the walls of New York apartment were stacked high with read books.

He indeed wasn’t lonely. He read and explored these worlds of print: at first new and exciting, then familiar and nostalgic to visit. In his mind all day lived characters from the read world: Quentin Compson chanting his sorrows, Lord Henry Wotton preaching vanity, Stephen Dedalus urging onto Nathaniel Scriven the need for artistic freedom. This was the prominent scene: Stephen Dedalus urging onto Nathaniel Scriven the need for artistic freedom and expression. Nathaniel Scriven looked onto the worn and new worlds alike: imaginative virgins waiting to be plundered for all their richness and depth: and onto old worlds, waiting again to be plundered, to have an overlooked treasure discovered and rediscovered. When he read the Great Works, it seemed as if there were a great flame within his heart.

The time came fro Nathaniel Scriven to select a profession. None were surprised when he decided on being a writer. O, yes! The dull, safe, non-adventurous profession of writing, thought his family, feeling all too disappointed that the family’s adventurous legacy was lost. But Nathaniel Scriven knew different. He know the vessel for his passion that lay in writing: the stretching of the limits of human consciousness that the marks of his pen could incur: the reach for the intangible, the almost contact with the divine that writing ensued: he would commit himself to unknown worlds and expand the earthly limitations on his restless soul until they were no more. He would reflect-master nature, and through his prose, his captivating powers of fiction to hold hostage his dear readers’ imagination, Nathaniel Scriven would achieve that projection of his soul (the eternity of man’s being) onto men’s hearts and minds.

And he would become a great artist. In fact, when his first work was released, critics clambered over each other in praise:

“Art!” one critic cried.

“Beautiful” exclaimed another.

“A masterpiece!” one of them said. Unlike his great-great-great-great-grandfather, he would not marry: not for him the ball and chain, the well furnished, respectable, very large prison (a prison still despite its size). No, rather, his soul flew high above anything that might hold it back: past family, past society, past distraction. For, although great a man’s love in his loins be for women, Nathaniel Scriven loved far more the ecstasy of creating new worlds through his syntax – form word to world. The thought to reality. Nathaniel hat said, let there be light: and there was. Thus, the power of the artist.

He, Author Nathaniel Scriven, forged both on paper and in men’s hearts a New World – not for a day was he an explorer of men’s depth and essence, but for eternity, but for forever his soul sang the human song.

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notebookgirl said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 4:44 pm
very well written, almost poetic
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