The "Cliff Notes" for F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" explains that most of what Fitzgerald wrote he cut. In a relentless search for perfect form, he wrote, rewrote, cut, chiseled, polished - and cut some more.
"One feature that distinguishes the classics of our literature," writes Phillip Northman, "is the conscious artistry that fuses a work into a unified whole; every detail contributes to the unity of the final product, and nothing superfluous is permitted to remain."
The musician friend who shared this with me said it reminded him that art is an act of intelligence, not whimsy. It reminded me that artistic excellence involves purity of expression. As in working with gold, creating art involves a refining process.
So does living life. A pure, whole life requires eliminating the impurities of human character in order that the gold of goodness may appear. This includes purifying conversation, career ambitions, innermost desires, and even opinions about yourself and other people.
The good news is that we can turn to God, divine Spirit, to help us.
Turning to God for purification isn't new. "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me," sang a musician of Bible times (Ps. 51:10). Reaching right through the millennia, you can feel the human yearning for a change that lies behind those words.
The reason we can turn to God to purify our thinking is that God is the one Mind of the universe. Divine Mind, not the human brain, is the source of all pure thoughts. When we listen for the divine Mind to speak to us, we hear what is true about ourselves.
To God, we're as precious and pure as the finest gold right now - His perfect, brilliant creation. We're the dazzling ideas of the one Mind. We aren't made of defective matter any more than gold is made of dross. We are the divine Mind's concepts - completely spiritual. We are as immortal and enduring and pure as God is.
The refining of gold requires hot fire. Sometimes refining our concept of who we are does, too. This refining action can also be described as repentance. It involves an ongoing examination of our motives in life, and a striving to put purer motives into practice.
Repentance and reformation aren't theological concepts that exist apart from daily living. They are the improvements in attitude that lift us higher. They are natural for us to desire and to experience, because our real nature is entirely good. God is the power that motivates us to accomplish good things, and this of necessity includes being able to act in ways that help ourselves and other people.
When, in the spirit of that psalm, we turn to God for help to overcome fear, resentment, envy, dishonesty, despair, the help comes. The dross is burned up. Destructive traits fall away. Better thoughts, God-thoughts, like courage, compassion, gratitude, integrity, and a conviction of well-being, take their place. We feel loved, whole, unlimited, special, and safe. It becomes clear that God formed us clean-hearted and pure-spirited. And we also start to see the health of our relationships, career, finances, and body improve.
So we are all artists. Thought artists. Daily, minute by minute, we purify and refine the art of living.
We are all sculptors, working at various forms, moulding and chiseling thought.... We must form perfect models in thought and look at them continually, or we shall never carve them out in grand and noble lives. Let unselfishness, goodness, mercy, justice, health, holiness, love - the kingdom of heaven - reign within us, and sin, disease, and death will diminish until they finally disappear.
Mary Baker Eddy
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society