Creation and Filicide

William Faulkner told writers to “kill your darlings” — that is, they should learn to excise lines of prose or turns of phrase that they had come to love like their own child.* A good creator is a willing filicide, always ready to kill her darlings. And who better illustrates this principle than God himself? The world’s great Creator is also its great Filicide.

The scriptures give many glimpses of a God quick to kill his darlings. This is the God who deluged the antedilivians and rained brimstone on the Canaan plains; this is the God who answered enumeration with infestation. This is the advocate who instills the same attitude in his acolytes — and after all, what is the Abrahamic story if not an invitation to join with God in salvific filicide?

Most importantly, this is the God whose filicidal tendencies find fruition in the Atonement of Christ — the unique product of a God truly willing to kill His Darling. Yes, God is a Filicide, and thank God for that willingness. Without it, all would be lost.

We are commanded to become like God, whose great work is creative. Thus Faulkner’s admonition blends in to our eternal progression: As we become creators, like unto God, we must embrace a principle of Godly filicide. Our experiences in this journey — perhaps even the process of blog post editing — will teach us how best to kill our darlings. As Gods, we will be required to do no less.

*Thanks to Russell for the source of the quote.

11 comments for “Creation and Filicide

  1. meems
    January 26, 2006 at 12:58 am

    Letting go of our creations is a painful process. In one sense I think it’s like letting your kids make their own mistakes. In other, it’s being able to let go of the baggage (mental, emotional, spiritual) we love to hang onto, even though it may be impeding our spiritual progress.

  2. Mardell
    January 26, 2006 at 1:06 am

    Kaimi,

    Does God really kill his children? He may end their mortal life sometimes. But under the plan of salvation, our mortal life is not the end. And remember that in the end, God gives us eternal life. So I am not convinced that God really kills his children.

    I will say that when I break up my kids for the upteenth time, filicide starts to sound pretty appealing!

  3. DHofmann
    January 26, 2006 at 1:17 am

    My favorite Philicide was David.

  4. Jonathan Green
    January 26, 2006 at 8:10 am

    **And then some annoying pedant pointed out that the quote is actually from Arthur Quiller-Couch’s 1916 book On Style

  5. January 26, 2006 at 8:49 am

    What!? Faulkner borrowed others’ ideas and presented them as his own?! He invoked the lines of his predecessors without attribution!? The plagiarist! Throw him out of the canon! (I hear he drank, too!)

  6. Matt Evans
    January 26, 2006 at 10:00 am

    Don’t forget evolutionary theory! If God used natural selection for his Creation, he shows he’s willing to take 100 steps back (kill millions of darlings) for one step forward. He killed off millions just to create an opposable thumb.

  7. January 26, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    That’s nonsense, the guy’s name was Goliath, not Phil… amateurs.

    Seriously, Kaimi, as a student of the law I am surprised that you would use filicide in this context for a couple of reasons:

    A. The primary, and consequently less awkward, usage of filicide is as a verb, therefore God would commit filicide, just as somoene might commit homicide or suicide. (I am fully aware that Websters unabridged allows for the use as a label of such a parent but let’s be honest, it sounds weird and it hurts my head. :)
    B. Filicide is defined as the murder of…. and murder is defined as the unlawful killing… Since when is anything God does unlawful? Unless of course, he ceased to be God sometime near the beginning of the Old Testament and I didn’t get the memo. (Of course, I also forget to put the cover sheets on my TPS reports, so it’s extremely likely I didn’t get it.)

    Neither of these critiques really addresses the point of your post. My question then is: Are all of the examples you cited of “filicide”, and the many others that have gone both uncited in the post and undocumented throughout history, examples of the tender mercies of the Lord? That is, how many mortal probations, if any, have been intentionally cut short to save them from reaching the point of no forgiveness or even from denying themselves a higher degree of glory?

  8. Julie M. Smith
    January 26, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    “That’s nonsense, the guy’s name was Goliath, not Phil… amateurs.”

    Three points.

  9. s p bailey
    January 26, 2006 at 2:19 pm

    Isn’t the point of the quote to be suspicious of oneself (i.e., one’s sentimental favorites) as an author? Isn’t the murder in the quote metaphorical? Sure, there is death and destruction in the Old Testament—and God’s sacrifice of his Son is the single most important event in history. But I don’t see a truly illuminating link between the self-indifferent mortal author and God causing or permitting the death of his children.

    Perhaps some people feel God-like as they edit blog-posts. Or feel like they are aspiring to Godhood by engaging in such editing. But I don’t like the creative enterprise as self-arrogation to Diety trope. The gospel-related creation metaphore I prefer: the author feeling her lost and fallen state as she edits, humbly renouncing herself as she murders her darlings. Nothing new under the sun and all that.

  10. Travis
    January 26, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    Interesting stuff, Kaimi. I’d not agree that Heavenly Father is “quick” to kill His darlings, but it certainly seems like He does it when He has to. I suppose I’d call him the Reluctant Filicide.

  11. Kaimi Wenger
    January 26, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    Mardell,

    Agreed — defenstration starts to sound like a good idea around 6 pm most nights. (Of course, defenstration would be less effective, now that we’re in a single-level house).

    Jonathan,

    If you’ve ever going to the Alaskan wilderness, you should take a few things with you in case of emergency. Flares. A pistol. And a laptop with WordPress and a T&S login.

    If you get lost, you fire off your flares. If that doesn’t help, you shoot the pistol in the air. And if you still don’t attract any attention, then you take out your laptop and post something to T&S. Within minutes, a commenter will be there telling you what you got wrong, and you can hitch a ride back to civilization. :)

    Ryan and Travis,

    On the concept of helpful or reluctant filicide, I think you’re exactly right. God knows when to take His losses, even if that involves making painful choices in the present.

    Bailey,

    If my posts are any evidence, I’m certainly in a lost and fallen state of blogging. :)

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