Max writes of classics and today’s creative potential:
In the same way that I dig ‘old’ music, whether it’s the Beatles, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison, Miles Davis, or Stan Getz (just to name a few, there’s about a million others), I wonder: what music, when I’m an adult, will I have similar fondness for? Just as our parents have songs that defined their childhood, their generation, what music will bring back memories of growing up, or of high school? Is any of the music that’s popular nowadays bound to become classic? Not just personally, but collectively.
A weighty question.
The contest of time
Mediæval authors in their day were competing against the classical Roman authors, to last as long as their writings had. This is the desire implicit in the vellum: made to last a thousand years, would it be worth keeping that long? And so it is for every writer since who’s worth his salt. This is the challenge of everyone who writes, from the epic poet to the dramatist to the novelist to the contemporary Christian music songwriter: write something good enough that, as Harold Bloom says in The Western Canon, society will not let it die.
Time has allowed J. S. Bach to live, and Michelangelo, and Vergil, and William Byrd, and Zhuangzi, and T. L. de Victoria, and Luo Guanzhong, and Du Fu, and Ludwig van Beethoven.
The challenge is not for the faint of heart. And now it’s me against ruthless time. What do I say now that’ll be worth quoting centuries from now? Chances are, nothing. And yet the human drive is to try, to create, to put out something new. In our ephemera we try to create marginalia that will write themselves, canonize themselves, into the texture of the universe. With competitors as great as Moses and David, Augustine and Aquinas, Shakespeare and Sophocles, Dante and Milton, Dostoevsky and Joyce, who prevails? How many pages of ink spilled even by Solomon have come down to us now?
To be canon
And now, the Church is society in its theosis, or so it’s meant to be. What it is to keep is that which is worth keeping, and the rest will be devoured by the worms of time, consumed by fire like the gates of old Jerusalem. So forget contextualization if you have no text that’s fit to see the light of day: ‘look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.’ Except there is something that moth and rust cannot destroy.