John Fowles interrupts chapter thirteen of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, his novel about Victorian England, to reflect on the limitations of a creative artist:

You may think novelists always have fixed plans to which they work, so that the future predicted by Chapter One is always inexorably the actuality of Chapter Thirteen.… Only one same reason [for writing novels] is shared by all of us: we wish to create worlds as real as, but other than, the world that is. Or was. This is why we cannot plan. We know a world as an organism, not a machine. We also know that a genuinely created world must be independent of its creator; a planned world (a world that fully reveals its planning) is a dead world. It is only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they begin to live [New American Library, 1971, p. 81].

For Fowles, a world alive with characters who bear responsibility makes free will a necessity. A novelist who refuses to program his characters frees them to assume a believable existence, just as God willingly endows his creatures with a totally “other” life of their own.

Fowles, however, capriciously illustrates the point. Having framed a situation with enough tension and enough irresolvable problems to illustrate a possible human story, he glibly resolves it in chapter forty-four:

Charles and Ernestina did not live happily ever after; but they lived together, though Charles finally survived her by a decade (and earnestly mourned her throughout it) [p. 264].

The ending is obviously too easy—so contrived that the author resorts to cynical description of it. He attributes the too-easy resolution to his protagonist’s daydreams and adds:

I said earlier that we are all poets, though not many of us write poetry; and so are we all novelists, that is, we have a habit of writing fictional futures for ourselves, although perhaps today we incline more to put ourselves into a film. We screen in our minds hypotheses about how we might behave, about what might happen to us; and these novelistic or cinematic hypotheses often have very much more effect on how we actually do behave, when the real future becomes the present, than we generally allow [p. 266].

John Dewey, in his monumental work Art as Experience, comments on the importance of allowing novelty and surprise to function freely in the summary phases of artistic creation:

The consummatory phase of experience—which is intervening as well as final—always presents something new. Admiration always includes an element of wonder. As a Renaissance writer said: “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” The unexpected turn, something which the artist himself does not definitely foresee, is a condition of felicitous quality of a work of art; it saves it from being mechanical [Capricorn, 1958, p. 139].
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The interplay between a watercolorist and the chemistry of his medium, the efforts of the later Goya to follow the brutal realism of Nature and humanity wherever they might lead, and the surprises offered by the aleatoric—random, chance—music of the twentieth century all illustrate the dialogic approach to materials taken by many artists.

Perhaps this is a prime reason why art appeals to young people: creative artists try to forgo manipulation. In contrast with a computer-card society that accepts the mechanism of the assembly line, the local credit bureau’s machine-prepared report, even the canned university degree, art seems to support human individuality and integrity.

A contemporary scholar has commented on the process in “The Transference of Problematicity”:

The crucial point in the creative process is that at which the developing quality of the artwork becomes dominant. The medium being ordered seems to take on a life of its own, and to make its own demands on how it is to be completed. Up until this point, every decision is taken only in conformity with the artist’s psychological needs. When the medium begins to manifest its own qualitative requiredness, the artist has a standard to which to appeal in his decisions [Matthew Lipman, What Happens in Art, Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1967, p. 116].

Recognition of this process is probably one reason why the awe-inspiring moment of man’s creation painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel remains so breathtaking. In all literature and art related to the Judeo-Christian faith, this moment remains one of the ultimately aesthetic experiences: the moment when Creator God gives man breath, thought, choices, values, and eternity of his own, as well as the need to create. Skinnerian behaviorism has no adequate explanation for this self-contained entity—a human being—who takes on life and becomes a creative personality under his own control. Baron von Swieten’s adaptation of Milton expresses the power and majesty of God’s handiwork manifest in the man he made after his own image:

In native worth and honour clad,

With beauty, courage, strength, adorn’d,

Erect, with front serene, he stands

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A man, the lord and king of nature all.

His large and arched brow sublime

Of wisdom deep declares the seat;

And in his eyes with brightness shines

The soul, the breath and image of his God.

God willingly created man with this selfhood, even at the risk of human rebellion. Since fiction is created by people and is about human experience, it illustrates the integrity that God grants human personality. And it should also convey respect for this integrity.

The awesome recognition that in a person resides the freedom inherent in the imago Dei, that God respects and loves this person and through his Son provides the breath for a second Birth—this knowledge reveals to us that sublimity in life envisioned by aestheticians. Seeing Michelangelo’s vision of Creation transposed from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel into living creatures of God’s own design, we realize that it is impossible for us to manipulate people or impose upon them standardization and conformity. And we realize also that it is essential to bring them the love of Christ that frees man to conform to the real personality God intended him to possess. DALE A. JORGENSON, head, Division of Fine Arts, Northeast Missouri State University, Kirksville, Missouri.

The King Comes To Bakersfield

“And the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”

It happened. Bakersfield, California, just northwest of the Mojave Desert, blossomed with The King of Glory last month, and rejoiced in dance and song. The pageant on the life of Christ was a lively celebration of God’s coming to man, and at the same time a deep hymn of praise.

After two and one-half years of preparation, the five sell-out performances at the Civic Auditorium were more than a cultural event: they represented the community in a way that no event had done before. Choirs, orchestra, ballet, and dramatists participated in one presentation. The 412 performers were joined by some 100 technical workers, supported by a majority of the local businesses, and endorsed by seventy-five churches, some of which made the production part of their Key 73 outreach.

Over 15,000 people attended The King of Glory, an original production adapted from parts of the Bible, Handel’s Messiah, and Berlioz’s Requiem, Lélio, and L’Enfance du Christ. Producers added a dramatic ballet to the music and narrated text.

Despite its cast-of-thousands nature and strong Berlioz influence, the production was not an overblown extravaganza. The two choirs stood in black on risers on each side of the stage, while the orchestra was concealed in the pit, leaving only the stage area to strike the eye. With skillful lighting, the 100-by-140-foot stage area became fluid, shrinking to an intimate circle for the annunciation to Mary, but powerfully expansive for the heavenly hosts with the shepherds. The music likewise ranged from hushed and lyric to loud and crashing power. In the narration, however, the delicate touch was lost: loud, solemn voices previously taped were played on the sound system.

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Amazingly, a coherent whole was produced out of the various movements of the Berlioz works with a few important sections from the “Messiah.” “Our first goal was to do the story, not the music,” explains Martha Knight, dramatic director, who did the initial selection of musical and scriptural passages and planned the drama and choreography. Phillip C. Dodson, musical director, refined the selection and did orchestration and arranging, including the composing of transitional pieces.

“When we first began, we saw this as a great witness to Jesus Christ—presenting the good news as it had never been presented before in Bakersfield,” says Dodson, minister of music at the First Baptist Church and director of the Masterworks Chorale, which started forty years ago as a vehicle for presenting the Gospel.

The most successful scenes dramatically were those conveying joy and excitement—the miracles and resurrection scenes, and especially the adoration of Christ at his birth. Leaping and skipping in a free, emotive style of ballet to Handel’s chorus, “For Unto Us a Son Is Given,” fifty young women of the Bakersfield Ballet Theater were joined by thirty persons dressed as shepherds. By groups of five and eight, twenty white-robed children ran in curiosity to the manger and then off again, sharing the news or circling hand-in-hand.

Disappointing by contrast was the long static scene of the Sermon on the Mount, where the people listened quietly as the production’s Jesus reeled off line after line in a gentle, unimpressive voice. With slow movements and gentle gestures, Darrell Cates portrayed Jesus as a kind, wise, somewhat lofty teacher—a king of glory. This interpretation was very effective in the Last Supper and Garden of Gethsemane scenes with their somber overtones, but in many others the pose suggested a lack of interaction between Jesus and the people. Lines such as “Love your enemies” sounded like the platitudes they have become rather than fresh ideas.

The spectacular music of the Requiem moved into the foreground near the production’s end. A moving “Agnus Dei” underlined the Last Supper, and “Hostias” and “Sanctus” supported a convincing performance of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Use of “Dies Irae” for the death of Judas had time for frenzied running over all 14,000 square feet of the stage before his death.

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The “Lacrymosa” during the trial before Pilate built powerfully until the cast was shouting “Crucify him!” with a roll of drums and acclaiming Barabbas. As Christ took up his cross and the crowds dispersed, a low, staccato “Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison” from the choirs effectively marked his suffering. The trumpets of “Tuba Mirum” began as the nails were hammered in and the men on crosses were lifted up—Christ with a tremendous roll of kettle drums. The audience sat transfixed. “It is finished” came with a huge crash of cymbals and drums.

At this point the genuine emotional tension created largely by the orchestra was endangered by special effects. An artificial-looking reddish-blue pattern of sky and clouds appeared on the scrim, and the “Voice of Prophecy” pronounced in deep, reverberating tones, “He was wounded for our transgressions …,” much in the manner of the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy stands before him. In scenes that were milder to start with, the sonorous, over-modulated “Voice” was more intrusive. Don Allen, a retired Los Angeles radio announcer famous for his deep “Go-oo-od morning,” read the lines.

Lighting made the final post-ascension tableau memorable. The only light was directed at Jesus; it spread to the angels around him and softly touched the worshiping figures on earth. A scrim separated the worshipers from the heavenly scene, and darkness joined them with the audience; all were hushed before the softly blurred distant tableau of heavenly glory, as the “amen” of Handel’s final chorus faded.

Each night after the dancers ended the performance by running down the aisles with the news, “He is risen!” the audience gave a standing ovation. Old people, teen-agers, and whole families were there, including Jewish people, some with children in the show. The only sizable elements of the community noticeably absent were blacks and Chicanos; they made up only a sprinkling in the audience and about twenty out of the 412 performers.

With one or two exceptions, all the participants were from Bakersfield, and most were amateurs. Only union members employed by the auditorium and orchestra were paid. School auditoriums and an empty store building were lent for rehearsals. Christian businessmen provided working capital, but the $60,000 spent was earned back in ticket sales. Without donated labor costs might have neared $1 million.

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The King of Glory brought the community and the churches together, according to Dodson. Doctrinal differences were overlooked or worked out. Mennonites and Southern Baptists objected to the dancing, especially in leotards during rehearsals, but were satisfied on learning that dresses would be worn during performances. (Also, Jesus was baptized by immersion!)

“Those who are not praying Christians are seeing those who are—they are learning,” comments Knight, who discovered that many members of her ballet theater had deep religious convictions. “They told me, ‘We’ve danced joy, but we’ve never yet been able to say our love of God.’ I can see what it does for their lives. Just what it’s done for my cast has been worth the effort, even without any audience.”

Key 73 set up tables for those who wanted counseling after the show, but there were few takers from the largely church-oriented audience. Knight did not see them as there to be saved. “We wanted to touch these people and make them feel what they’re hearing in a more real way—to give them a thrill for Easter.” ANNE EGGEBROTEN, Berkeley, California.

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