Richard Eberhart, my father, was a poet. He lived with words. He was compelled to resolve mankind’s dual nature—devil and angel, as he frequently diagnosed our nature—and to ease our deepest hurts, with words. He sang of our dual nature, and of our deepest hurts, as a troubadour might have done in medieval times, or as a romantic might have done two hundred years ago.
Poems are like veils. A veil obscures actual, raw experience—a woman’s face, for example—and it produces in the observer an ideal view of that face. In actuality, the woman may have blemishes, but her observer who sees her through her veil does not observe her blemishes. Her observer sees the ideal. Therefore, the veil obscures what is behind it, but also the veil idealizes what is behind it at the same time; makes it finer.
All of us live in the raw experience of life. That is to say, we already know what life’s blemishes are; they are the rawness of our raw experience.
But when we view the raw experience through the veil, we experience it as it ought to be. If poets with their words put veils across the face of raw experience, then we who read their words are encouraged to grasp what is greater—or more true, or more beautiful—than what we already know.
Here is what I believe is true about of our human souls, a truth of how we are designed. I believe our souls are designed so that we yearn to know what is beyond our limited human knowing. Art—the poems, the veils—helps us with that. That is why art works for us. That is why poetry works for us. By art, we are taken beyond our limitations and shown a new perspective which validates how raw experience ought to be perceived by us.
Art allows us ought.
What about Scripture? Scripture, too, is a veil. It filters the absolute truth and the absolute light coming to us from God. Our souls are created to yearn toward that truth and toward its light. We yearn toward that truth and its light, but the veil is important because, if we should perceive God’s truth and light directly, we would die. God tells us this Himself. “I will make all my goodness pass before you,” God says, “But you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:19-20 ESV)
God is the supreme poet of the universe. Another poet, Emily Dickenson, said this same thing, with admirable sparseness.
Tell the Truth but tell it slant--
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.
In my life circumstance, I grew among hundreds of writers, particularly poets, who trooped all the time through our house brandishing their manuscripts to interest my father. I listened with intensity to them and to their own fascination with their own voices.
What, really, were they saying? What did their veils obscure? Were they avatars of absolute truth and absolute light and yet dazzled gradually, so we should not be blind?
Of one thing I became convinced. Art is a great effort. It is plain hard work.
I was profoundly moved that those poets and other artists are creators out of nothing. As is the case with all writers, my father was doomed to begin with a blank page. A blank page is not an easy challenge for a human.
Our perfect Father creates out of nothing, too. But imagine the joyfulness of his loving creative task. His blank page is no paper, indeed. He begins with a blank universe, and, unlike poor Dad, He never needs to rewrite!