Monday, July 19, 2010

Unpopular Virtues: Devotion

Making Monday

There is a line toward the end of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address that has always resonated with me:
"... from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion"
As language is a fluid thing, the word 'devotion' is commonly used to mean 'fervent admiration.' We've lost the older, more concrete sense of 'willing to do whatever is necessary.' Devotion, in the modern sense, has lost the selflessness implied in the older sense and has picked up a sense of selfishness: saying 'I'm devoted to something' focuses the emphasis on the 'I' and not the 'something.'

I mention devotions and the subtle changes in meaning because integrity in making comes from devoted makers. There are, for example, a great many writers who are devoted in the modern sense. But the best work comes from those devoted in the older sense.

Perhaps a clearer way to put it is that there comes a point in just about every human endeavor, writing included, where you have to answer the question: Is it about me or is it about the work?

Making is about devotion in its older sense. Makers are willing to do what needs to be done across the life cycle of the thing they're making. Consonant with self-less devotion, with a true maker, it's ultimately about the work.

 Image: Bill Longshaw /