How Might the Nature of Inspiration Be Understood?
We are, each one of us, granted our uniqueness out of that which only we possess as well as that which is common to many but which appears in combinations and degrees which further diversity. In addition to what that uniqueness brings to our lives and what it gives us the possibility of being able to be or do, we can also encounter Divine inspiration that prompts or guides us. The amount we receive and how it comes to us may vary from the barely perceptible to the glaringly obvious. It may seem straightforward or oblique. There may be a sudden flash or a slowly parceled out process. It can affect us in any area or aspect of our lives, and it may be in relation to any number of things with which we are or could potentially be involved. It may or may not be directly spiritually related. Art, science, and other pursuits have all been influenced by their share, though we may not always know why. We may only feel certain we are being touched by something much greater than ourselves.
Whenever someone is inspired, that inspiration comes through the filter of their willingness, abilities, inclinations, perception, knowledge, beliefs, style, and current state and conditions of life and being, among other things. On the down side, from this filter can spring error, omission, excess, unclarity, or disorganization. This filter can come into play, to one extent or another, even amongst those who feel they are taking simple dictation from a higher source. It can also be the case that not everything that could possibly be said or shown concerning a specific item or issue will necessarily be given to an individual - a thing which we can fail to realize. And as soon as something written or spoken gets translated into another language, something further can be lost. However, the positive aspects of the filter may be one of the reasons why a specific individual has been the one to receive the inspiration.
Consider the artist, well known for being inspired. While the impetus to create and much of the actual detail may come from that inspiration, the artist's style will be apparent in the work. A poet may make spelling errors or misuse a word. The misused word can turn out to be an error or to be a better word than the one with the meaning the poet intended to use; however, the poet may or may not have difficulty determining which is the case. A philosopher's ideas may be a mixed bag of concepts that stand the test of time and opinions clouded by current events. And anyone can get partial information and then have trouble attempting to fill in the blanks, which may or may not even be the right thing to try to do. The inspiration is true, but the vessels are human and both limited and imperfect.
To admit to inspiration can be an embarrassment, given the egotistical and crazy sound of such a claim. Scorn and dismissal often result, as well as self-doubt. On the other hand, when an openly inspired person is accepted rather than ridiculed, whatever her or his attitude about it may be, the praise given can go well beyond what is warranted and even become distorted. This is the case, for example, for the famous actor or musician. The pedestal is too high, the perch too precarious, the expectations too great and too broad. And when a fall occurs, the damage can seem devastating for both the admired and the admirers.
Truthfully, the inspired have both obligations and limits to those obligations. They matter as contributors to beauty and understanding, both for what they have done and what they might have yet to do. But there are boundaries surrounding their importance to what they produce. Their task is to bring it into form or action; to present it - or to provide or leave it for another to present; to explain, use, or practice it in whatever way is appropriate; and to be as true to the work and its spirit as is called for and as they are able. Beyond that, once it leaves them and goes out into the world, they are no longer necessary to it.
A genuinely worthy offering will eventually stand independently of its author and even withstand the revealing of any details or questions about that person and her or his life. Hence your friend, a stranger, and someone you feel at odds with can all be inspired, and the truth of what they offer will still hold. The greatness is in the result of the inspiration, which can and often does long outlive its ordinary and mortal creator.
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