later on, another passage describes asher's deliberations as he works in paris. he immerses himself in the art and architecture and begins working. he doesn't rush the artistic process, and lives with his blank canvases for months. then, "away from my world, alone in an apartment that offered me neither memories nor roots, i began to find distant memories of my own, long buried by pain and time and slowly brought to the surface..."(p. 306/7). asher begins to reflect on his past relatives and their experiences: his "mythic ancestor" and how he made a russian nobleman prosperous, his grandfather "the scholar" and his work for the Rebbe, his father and his work rescuing ladover jews and establishing yeshivas in europe, his mother and her own anguish over the unfinished work of her brother and determination to complete it. this timeline, which stretches over several generations, stirs up questions about completing tasks, atoning for the past, about journeying and sacrifice and choosing life. this leads him to create a pivotal work, one which brings the question of "the morality of a work's content" versus "the aesthetics of the work" to a head. and that question is an important question. the question gets at the heart of the task of the artist: to create something in which the content and the form are perfectly balanced. to achieve wholeness.
"i had brought something incomplete into the world. now i felt its incompleteness. "can you understand what it means for something to be incomplete?" my mother had once asked me. i understood, i understood." (p. 312 top). i believe the question of [in]completeness is a core issue for the artist, as it is for asher. it is not only about the integrity of the work, it is also about the integrity of the artist. one of the ideas i am very interested in is the idea of Beauty in art. Beauty is more than simply some subjective aesthetic quality. it encompasses ideas of wholeness and completeness, and therefore has a moral element to it. Beauty and Truth are not that unrelated. they are like two sides of the same coin. ultimately, art's role - for asher at least - is to declare Truth or to express how one feels about things. there is a necessity for the artist to be Truth-full in what they are exploring, declaring, presenting and how they go about that. there must be an integrity in what they are working on. they must be convinced of the work, its importance, its usefulness, its ability to make difference in the world.
this reflects the belief, found throughout the book, in the power of creativity to shape the universe. this creativity isn't necessarily associated only with the arts, but can be expressed in any arena of life. even so, made in the image of G-d (we carry the imago dei, after all), we are inherently creative beings. all the characters - from the Master of the Universe/ Ribbono Shel Olom through asher and aryeh and rivkeh lev, to the rebbe and jacob kahn, to the numerous immigrants and refugees in the novel - exhibit creativity and the ability to adapt and respond to ever-changing conditions. this is an essential part of the artistic process - the ability to respond to and embrace change, and to use it to create something new. in fact, it is inherently redemptive in tone. so what will you do with your creativity? what will you create in the world? to what end?