Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Readin' and Writin'

This is a quote from part of an essay on Emerson by George Sheehan. I believe it captures much of the reason that I choose to blog. Some will say that I, and other bloggers, just like to hear our own voices (or see them in print). I suggest that there is a higher purpose to writing, whether it is the next great novel or a brief, humorous perception of the day's activities. Can you see your thoughts in this passage?

"We need books. First, to be educated. Emerson knew Shakespeare by heart, and read widely in the classics and Eastern philosophers. He knew his world and he principles that governed it. The great thinkers begin by knowing what others think. Wisdom comes after information and knowledge. Books provide the scaffolding that allows us to build our own system of thought. In the end, our lives depend on that. We must think for ourselves. There is no precedent for you or me. Each of us is different from anyone else. So others can be no more than guides. They tell us what is successful for them. We must find what is successful for us. Emerson expresses our own ambivalence toward books. In one essay he tells us we must read. He even gives us a list of the books he finds most valuable. Then on an equally convincing essay he tells us there is no need to read. In one piece he has quotes from other thinkers in virtually every paragraph; and in the next he says, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you think." That is what writing is. Telling people what you think. Telling other people certainly, but primarily yourself. That is why we must write. To find out what we think. To discover what we believe. Until we say it or write it down we are unaware of what is actually at the root of our lives. Good, honest, frank speech goes a long way, but writing is best. Writing permits of revision and revision aids precision. Spontaneity is good. Sincerity is better. But what we want to attain is veracity-the truth as best we can put it into words. This is by all accounts hard work even for the best. We should know that the catalyst for this process is often someone else's writing. How many a man had dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. Perhaps not so much from reading a new book but from coming upon a person who sees life in a slightly different way-and that way a sudden opening to your own hidden or unexpressed thoughts on the matter. We must be civil to books. It is worth reading 400-500 pages to find a few golden sentences that can change our lives."

1 comment:

bbeth said...

I totally agree - especially with the idea that we write to find out what we think and to discover what we believe. There is something about being willing to put words on paper that defines us....if we are being honest with ourselves.

I think that is why blogging has such appeal to many.