In The Best of BrainPickings 2019, Maria Popova includes an article on Iris Murdoch which quotes extensively from her book Existentialists and Mystics: Writing on Philosophy and Literature. It includes deeply-encouraging observations on why it is vital to keep writing, even in these dark days following another “low and dishonest decade”:
“Tyrants always fear art because tyrants want to mystify while art tends to clarify. The good artist is a vehicle of truth, he formulates ideas which would otherwise remain vague and focuses attention upon facts which can then no longer be ignored.
“The quality of a civilisation depends upon its ability to discern and reveal truth, and this depends upon the scope and purity of its language.
“Any dictator attempts to degrade the language because this is a way to mystify.
“Whenever we write we ought to write as well as we can… in order to defend our language and render subtle and clear that stuff which is the deepest texture of our spirit.
“Both art and philosophy constantly re-create themselves by returning to the deep and obvious and ordinary things of human existence and making there a place for cool speech and wit and serious unforced reflection. Long may this central area remain to us, the homeland of freedom and of art. The great artist, like the great saint, calms us by a kind of unassuming simple lucidity, he speaks with the voice that we hear in Homer and in Shakespeare and in the Gospels. This is the human language of which, whenever we write, as artists or as word-users of any other kind, we should endeavour to be worthy.”
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