Monday, June 20, 2011

Law 6: Charity - Acts of Kindness or Benevolence

Making Monday

It may simply be one more piece of evidence that I was destined for the path of making from an early age, but as a child I was much more interested in watching insects than stepping on them. I was disappointed as I grew older to learn that not everyone was fascinated by such creatures as they went about their business and content to let them be. (I have a nephew who treats bugs on the side walk like a video game.)

Making is benevolent: it is a gentle art.

Benevolence is, "a disposition to do good; possessing love to mankind, and a desire to promote their prosperity and happiness." (Webster, 1889) At one level, the benevolence of makers is a natural consequence of their opposition to the selfishness of users. At another, it springs from the integrity of makers: beauty and durability flow from making that is true to the nature of the subject.

The process of making is fundamentally benevolent because it has more in common with nurturing than conforming. For example, rather than seeing multiple revisions as a burden, makers accept that this is how a manuscript grows into its final polished form.

Thoughtfulness, or mindfulness, goes hand-in-hand with the benevolence of the makers, who strive never to be rash or arbitrary, but always steady and sure. It takes constant, careful attention to draft a novel. We have to sustain the emotional intensity and narrative drive, which our readers experience over the course of a few hours, for months or years.

But please don't mistake the charity of the makers for moral superiority: it's simpler and deeper than that. Their benevolence is a natural and artless consequence of an outward orientation, a fundamental belief that other things in the universe have as much right to exist as we do, and the conviction that everything is better when it is filling the measure of its creation.

That's why makers rarely try to step on bugs.


Image: Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net