In high school, my sophomore English class required that we write a response to Eli Wiesel’s “Night”. Like any high school paper, and despite “Night” being a powerful book, I procrastinated and threw something together the day before its due.
A few days later my teacher finished grading the papers, and she selected a few papers she felt should be shared with the class. She called me to the front and asked if I would read my short essay. I was surprised because I literally threw the words on the paper just a few days before. I hadn’t felt that I wrote anything particularly awarding.
I squeamishly read my essay in front of the class. Then my teacher asked for the class’ opinion.
The response was incredibly surprising. Either these kids were playing the teacher’s game, or they genuinely interpreted my essay into something beyond a response to a book. I will never forget one girl’s comment.
“I liked how you used the imagery of the Nazi officer sorting the prisoners into separate groups as a card dealer. It makes you wonder whether life really did feel like a gamble or game to the prisoners, and whether the Nazis felt that way too.” I am the Nazi officer, dealing you cards: Life, Death, Life, Death.
I was astounded. There existed no premeditation on my part to include such imagery, nor to elicit such thoughts. I threw this thing together at the last second.
It makes me wonder whether other people experience similar events. It makes me wonder whether an artist’s art can evoke similar depths of meaning when the artist really had no intent. It makes me wonder on the elusiveness of meaning, and whether we can really say what we want to say and only what we want to say.
What if the Bible is like this, a homework assignment carelessly put together the day before it is due? What if Christianity is like the girl’s comment, seeing something of substance when the author had no intent of indicating that substance?