What Eastern Orthadox Christianity has to do with Writing

First, let me talk about writing.

Ever since I discovered the miracle of typing there has been a “paper and pen vs computer” debate raging in me. The obvious perk of my newfound typing ability was that, for once in my life, I could get the words out nearly as quickly as they came to me.

Yet still, the paper and pen approach had undeniable charms.

With a paper and pen you can write big, or little, or bold, or italic, or in the middle of the page, or on the far edge of the page, or even upside down, without having to figure out which buttons to push first.

Depending on your mood you can write with a pen or a pencil or purple ink or a red marker or a green colored pencil or even a burnt match.

If you are stumped, then you can draw something, anything, to clear your head or add new meaning to what you are doing.

You can tear the page out, get a paper cut, fold it up, stick it under your pillow, squeeze it in the middle of the night.

If a tear falls onto the paper you can rub it and rub it and rub it until it forms a perfect little hole.

When you type, you have words. When you write with a pen and paper, you have less words, but more of something else. What is it?

The word is aesthetics. Writing longhand has a certain aesthetic component that writing with a computer doesn’t possess.

Now I am going to talk about Eastern Orthodox Christians. I don’t know a huge amount about the Orthodox Church, but I always had an idea that they were basically like Catholics or whatever. I mean they have saints and icons and beautiful cathedrals.

They are not the same though, the key difference being that they believe they are saved by grace, not works.

Still, even though they are saved by grace, they are still quite different from us. Our churches are theological and functional. Theirs are full of icons and beautiful stained glass windows. In some ways, they are like the paper-and-pen method of writing, while we are like the typing method. We may get more words out, but they have an aesthetic component in their worship which we don’t have.

We discussed this during Bible time the other night. Whether the Orthodox Christians are right or wrong or whatever is beside the point. The point is, some people worship more fully if their worship contains an aesthetic component.

Not just worship. Writing, too, and also just random things like…eating.

I enjoy my food more if it’s pretty. No matter how you spin it, that’s the truth. It doesn’t necessarily taste better, but I enjoy it more.

Question: If I insert an aesthetic component into my writing and worship, how will that change things?

Answer: We shall see.

Today, during my devotions, I decided to go to Habakkuk, read the first verse, and draw what it means.

Yes, draw.

The first verse said, “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received.”

My first thought was to draw a prophet guy in one corner, and some light in the other corner to represent God, and something, maybe a scroll, getting passed from one to another.

But Emily! You are not illustrating a Bible story book. No, you are drawing what this means to you.

I began to draw something purple, and blue, and green. Something beautiful. It was a flower. God was handing a flower to Habakkuk.

Weird? Un-theologically correct? Of course. But to see an oracle as a scroll is not meaningful to me. To see an oracle as a haunting, beautiful flower, is.

Back to the topic of writing:

If you must know, I didn’t write my book so much as I created it. It was like one big game of cut and paste, as I literally ripped up blog posts and diary entries from the past year and reassembled them in a floppy blue binder I bought at a second-hand store for fifty cents. If there was something missing, I added a page and wrote on it longhand.

And I had so much fun writing (er, creating) it it’s not even fair.

The other day I realized something. I am trying so hard, and failing, to write another book. What if I tried creating one instead? So I got out a black binder with a picture of a donkey painted to look like a zebra. I filled it with paper. And I began writing and drawing with colorful markers.

Perhaps it will never turn into anything amazing. But the thing is, I’m having fun. And the words are flowing. And I am loving it.

So this is my current experiment: How does adding an aesthetic quality to the things I do make it more worthwhile, or just different?

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3 responses to “What Eastern Orthadox Christianity has to do with Writing

  1. This post makes my compositionist’s heart sing! I’ve thought about doing this kind of process with my students–maybe now I really will give it a try.

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  2. This is terrific insight! I’m not sure I understood that aesthetics are a necessity, not just a luxury, for some people to create things and worship. That’s cool… ’cause currently I’m writing out my blog posts by hand. I’ve got two that haven’t made it onto my blog yet… writing them out was somehow easier than staring at a blank computer screen. And I’m with you on the creative handwriting– my handwriting completely changed in the last four years of journaling. It’s such fun to make it script-y and dramatic.

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  3. Thanks for giving me some insight into something I’ve been trying to figure out! I do alot on the computer, but absolutely can’t do a journal, especially my prayer journal.

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