Tag Archives: writing
Humanistic and democratic endeavors will need to become conscious of their implied politics to survive, let alone shape the future. It is not enough to practice and restate journalistic customs of objectivity, neutrality, and balance. They need to be understood as choices with consequences for, among many other things, the reality of the populace they imagine or propose. They need to be more than defended, but actively deployed in opposition to the tendencies that prosper by undermining them. The best and most independent-minded journalism and the most ambitious and penetrating film and television productions constantly risk being nothing more than quiescent entertainment for a useless liberal intelligentsia.
I collect these comments for my own benefit as much as to persuade anyone else to buy and/or read my book (though you should–it’s good and I’m proud of it). Being a writer without any formal credentials, institutional affiliation, or prominent personal platform is a disorienting vocation. I’ve taken every opportunity that’s been given me by friends and colleagues, worked up a few of my own, and relied a great deal on friends for advice and counsel. But I’ve never been very intentional about any of it. Part of the reason I started this site was to pull together pieces that sprawl across the internet like sheep without a shepherd. For ten years (not counting the years of pointlessly prolific blogging before that) I’ve been sending them out and seeing what happens to them before moving on to the next story, review, exegetical essay, or argument.
This fear is a dreadful burden to carry. It really is. We don’t notice it, because we’re so accustomed to it, but it’s like a load of bricks on our back. It’s a way of letting death win in advance. And here’s my pet theory about it: It’s not that we, as modern Americans, are so in love with our own lives—that we are so overflowing with joy and satisfaction that we lash out at the slightest hint of possible danger. It’s that we do not believe in or value our eternal souls. As if so many of us believe we are not prepared to bring our sins before God. Or maybe worse, as if we think there is no such thing, and there will be no accounting of our actions.
It wasn’t until I’d been preaching and writing like this for a number of years that the pathos of John Ames’s sermons in Gilead, boxed up in the attic and waiting for his post-mortem bonfire, really hit home. I was exposed to a massive dose of T.S. Eliot at an off-label age, and I was perhaps too complacent with his running theme of the life and death of words and their meanings. “These things have served their purpose; let them be,” I learned by heart before I had made much of anything to be attached to in the first place. Now I’m a million-odd words deep into a vocation whose tangible products are subject to nearly instant forgetting, recycling, the half-life of modest virality, and the onset of linkrot, and I am tempted to be less philosophical.
The season’s meager forays into discomfort can only show how very different fasting is from true hunger, let alone hunger imposed and enforced as a policy. Self-imposed penance for the sins of the world is an impossibility; it can even be a perverse delusion. Nothing in that world can be assimilated to our prostrations or hair shirts. “Weep not for me, but for yourselves,” as Jesus says
When you write compulsively, people will tell you by way of encouragement or indulgence that you should write a book. The logic of it may not be quite clear, but it can be very persuasive all the same. I heard this and said it to myself over the years, lacking only a firm grasp on […]