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A particular toy or a particular ikon may be itself a work of art, but that is logically accidental; its artistic merits will not make it a better toy or a better ikon. They may make it a worse one. For its purpose is not to fix attention upon itself but to stimulate and liberate certain activates in the child or the worshipper. The teddy bear exists in order that the child may endow it with imaginary life and personality and enter into a quasi-social relationship with it. That is what “playing with is” means. The better this activity succeeds the less the actual appearance of the object will matter. Too close or prolonged attention to its changeless and expressionless face impedes the play. A crucifix exists in order to direct the worshipper’s thought and affections to the Passion. It had better not have any excellences, subtleties, or originalities which will fix attention upon itself. Hence devout people may, for this purpose, prefer the crudest and emptiest ikon. The emptier, the more permeable; and they want, as it were, to pass through the material image and go beyond.”

From An Experiment in Criticism
Compiled in The Business of Heaven

An Experiment in Criticism. Copyright © 1961 by Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. The Business of Heaven. Editing of this collection and preface by Walter Hooper. Copyright © 1984 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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