In the last post, we saw how an author typically borrows the Universe she lives in to create her own world; well and good. We also saw that this world is created in the first place to communicate something abstract, which could not be created without a fitting medium. From there, we began to explore particular instances of this dynamic – namely, what is the significance of particular physical things?
I pointed to a gun, which is signifies the means to defend oneself, and/or to attack. It might be said to convey the soul’s desire for self-preservation; or again, to impose upon the existence of another being.
Also mentioned was the idea of a talisman – let’s say a mailbox. In our world, the mailbox has a mundane significance: It is a channel for printed communication. But our author might write a story granting the mailbox a magical significance: Perhaps it tells fortunes, or dispenses memories which may be swallowed up and assimilated into the experience of the consumer.
Now, what about love?
Love, I would like to assert, is desiring and, where possible, providing for the good of another. And what is “good?”
Good, I might say, is that which is directed toward the fulfillment of a thing – what might also be called the actualization of a thing’s potential. And now, we are bound either to an endless cycle of abstractions – which would ultimately mean nothing – or we find a terminus, a ground of good. Good itself, if you like.
Let us take the author as the terminus, as we did in a previous post. The author creates a main character, charming and impetuous, short and slim. What is the good of that character? How would the author (or any other character) love this main character?
We would have to know, somehow, what the character was created for.
Now, setting aside our hypothetical author for a moment, who we said created for a unique purpose, let us look briefly at a common author. A character is often created for any number of reasons, including a kind of self-projection, or thought experiment for the author, or even for the purpose of targeting a certain audience. The unifying – perhaps the highest – reason is that the character was created for the good of the story, to entertain, to captivate, move, inspire.
In this way, most characters are reduced to utilities. No reader much minds them, except as they might reflect real people, or as far as they provoke and inspire. They are a medium for delivering a feeling, a thought, a conviction.
Consider now our hypothetical author and her unusual purpose: She creates her characters for their own sake. She calls them into being, from nothing into a kind of existence (again, within her story). Perhaps she shapes them a certain way, invests them with traits and talents, burdens them with troubled pasts.
Now, what is the good of such characters? How might they be fulfilled? What is the potential that may be actualized?
We might, in this context, phrase it another way: What is the highest existence these characters can attain?
The upper limit: They cannot ever have the same ontological status as the author. That is, they can never have being in the same way the author has being – the author possesses it more fundamentally. If the author ceased to exist, so would they; moreover, the author might continue to exist, but cease to think of them. Then, too, they would die.
This is the unbridgeable gap between the Creator and the created.
Very well. Respecting this limit, what is the highest existence these characters can attain?
I think we must say that they can have as high an existence as the author can possibly devise. Consider that: If you created a character this very moment, what is the highest existence you can imagine for them?
Would it be to make them royalty in their lands? To give them the ability to fly? To give them endless worlds to explore? To make them a being of pure light? To annihilate them in an experience of Nirvana? (And what, exactly, would Nirvana be?)
If we consider the author as all-powerful, we might see how the author could be forever inventive in this way, or at least inventive for a long time. Of course, this mere inventiveness – this endless string of novelty, or (merely) exalted sense of being is not quite the same as the Beatific Vision. The difference is critical, and shows us how even our hypothetical author does not really show us the breadth and depth of God.
But it is enough to say, by way of analogy, that if the author creates the characters for their own sake, she fulfills them by an exaltation of their being, and not by a measure of their usefulness for some other purpose.