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The Muse is a Pagan God: We Should Not Follow It
posted on January 23, 2017
Alright, I admit that title is a bit click baity of me, but allow me to explain.
I should first start with what I don't mean by such a title. I by no means believe it to be sin to make use of our God given gifts and talents. Of course, we should. But we should do so in His honor and glory.
When it comes to creative pursuits, people commonly talk about following the Muse, which means that they are letting their creativity and imagination lead them wherever it takes them. The saying alludes to Greek Mythology. There were nine of these Muses, the Greek gods of inspiration for various fields of study.
So am I denouncing the usage of a saying with Pagan roots? No, what I'm saying goes much deeper, to take caution in where our passions amorally lead. This is the great trap of those of us blessed with creative gifts, claiming to be righteous, often with justifications like, "So long as I keep it below a PG 13 level, I'm good". Wherever the so called Muse leads, may we ever scrutinize it with a discerning eye.
What manner of scrutiny should it be held to? One reading this post may not believe the Book of Mormon, but regardless, anyone can find the following sound counsel in Alma 7:23:
And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.
Let's break all of this down. First, it mentions humility. Our talents are for God's glory, not our own. We should be all about what truly benefits the world, not what gives us great acclaim.
Next, submission. Again, it's not about what we want, but what God wants. When it says easy to be entreated, that more or less means the same thing. May we say, not just by our words, but also our actions, "Not my will, but Thine be done".
Next, gentleness. What that would mean in this context is creating content that is sensitive as opposed to offensive to whatever groups of people you depict.
Next, full of patience and long-suffering. Art is work. Hard work. A novel can only be written one day at a time. Great patient is absolutely necessary in a life of a creator. It isn't done when you type the words, "the end" either. Creating a product is only the first step. To be worth anything, you have to sell it, which can be even greater work than creating it in the first place.
Next, temperance in all things. Passion and aspiration are good, but not at the expense of neglecting other important duties like family or personal health. Sacrifice is necessary to make dreams happen, but use good judgment when doing so.
Next, keep the commandments, which corresponds to points one and two above, humility and submission to God. Many equate keeping the commandments to obeying them, but it goes much deeper than this. This critical point deserves a great deal of expounding, so let's dig in!
One part of the Old Testament commonly glazed over is the specification for building the Ark of the Covenant. But it was pointed out to me that the Hebrew word used for the Arks walls in those verses is actually the same word for ribs, like with Adam's rib. As they kept the stone tablets with the Law of God in the Ark, it's a symbol of where we need to keep it, written in stone inside our own hearts. How we treasure the Word will be reflected in what we create.
Joseph Smith wrote, "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." So we would do well, whenever the so called Muse sends those sparks of inspiration and we're inclined to be intrigued and enchanted by these ideas, to pause and consider what sort of influence it would be. That which encourages one to do good, to be a more decent human, to follow the commandments, and to draw closer to God is of Him. That which does the opposite, to indulge in carnal passions, to rebel against truth, to promote hate and contention, and alienate people from God, comes from Satan.
Now, the saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words" doesn't just apply to literal pictures, so how about an illustration of what I'm getting at. An excellent example of how one should use their talents for good is the Piano Guys. Some may consider this a controversial example, but they made it clear in a public statement that their inauguration performance was not to support Donald Trump per se, but to promote their message of hope and unity for USA, which they did. Regardless, of who was elected, they would have still willingly done this. Pay especial attention to their speech between the two songs they performed below:
To wrap up the points from the Alma scripture, next is asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal. The beautiful thing about being on God's side is that He has your back or to quote from the Piano Guys video above, "It's Gonna Be Okay".
The last point of the verse above is gratitude. Think about why we create in the first place. We do it out of appreciation of the beauty that surrounds us. The greater our gratitude, the greater the passion we can have in honoring His Almighty Name!
Perhaps more importantly, when we successfully accomplish great things with our talents, give God the credit! Thank Him for the success!