On the slipperiness of writing

1 06 2008

For months now, I have been, well, procrastinating, with/against the idea of writing in some form or another. Today, I have finally buckled down and began to type. And about what? The slipperiness of writing.

For years now, one of my favorite authors is the late, great, G.K. Chesterton – a man who wrote more than I could possibly fathom writing. As a newspaper journalist, Chesterton wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 11,000 articles for various publications throughout his life. I have yet to read most of his numerous articles, books, poetry, etc., but I have made may way through (in some form or another) a few of his works and am currently enjoying Joseph Pearce’s biography of Chesterton, Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton. I am just past the halfway point in this near 500-page book, and am increasingly in awe at his utter simplicity in life, whether it be his relationship with children, the romance with his wife, the sincere way in which he approaches thought and dialogue, his complete firmness in what he himself believes through much effort of searching and finding, and, I believe, most importantly, the way in which the discoveries of his tireless searching were not merely for some sort of intellectual gratification (alone), rather these discoveries were reached and then lived by him. Of all the many quotes from his contemporaries that I have seen so far in this biography of Chesterton, one of the most familiar type is that of his being a magnanimous character (and not only in size, although it seems that his enormous stature was quite the illustration of the man he was): a man who lives what he believes.

So if this post is about the elusiveness of writing, then why did I just write a paragraph about Chesterton, and not about not writing?

The topic of the slipperiness of writing is very much involved with the persona of Chesterton. For Chesterton was a man of deep, incisive, penetrating thought. And he did not keep these thoughts to himself. He articulated these thoughts to himself and to others, in his (and their) quest for the truth of things (indeed, the Truth of things) and brought these very thoughts to the masses through his many and various writings. Chesterton could very well have been one to run about his daily life, without ever questioning or examining, without ever wondering or searching, and, really, without ever articulating his perspective of the same reality which we all experience. But then, who would Chesterton be? He simply would be a disappearing memory, whose name would only be recognized by those who he would have known in his life in England in the 1900’s: relatives, friends, colleagues, etc. Not that that is at all a negative place to be, for God knows many of the greatest souls to ever walk this earth are just that. But Chesterton had a gift, and this gift did not go unused, this talent not buried. And the gift was his simplicity (or, as Pearce says, his innocence).

For what could be a greater cause of duplicity than being inarticulate? To wander about one’s daily life, unexamined, unquestioned, unaided by articulation of thought; what is the purpose of it? As the country song goes, “you’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” “Falling for anything” is another way of saying duplicitous, for if one is not at all grounded in his articulation, his way of expressing reality, then he can’t help but be thrown about in every possible direction by passing fads and rootless opinions of others. This makes one duplicitous because he’s not simple in accepting, in appreciating, and in interpreting reality, the truth, for himself. So he walks around, amidst all sorts of noise, never questioning, never understanding, never able to explain why certain things happen, why they happen in certain ways, never able to appreciate life in its depths because he’s completely caught up in its superficialities: the colors, the sounds, the movements, the passions, the new this and the new that – all tangled up in a big blur which he calls life. If only he would stop and question, stop and appreciate. What do these things which I experience mean? Do they point to anything other than themselves? Why is the rose beautiful? Why a sunset? Why are the leaves of trees so abundantly green and so precisely beautiful in their composition? Could I tell you the difference between the sunset today from the sunset yesterday? Do I appreciate (in some form) the similarity or difference between the two?

If one doesn’t ask questions, if one doesn’t appreciate … then what is life? What is life but a blur of fading and intertwining memories mixed with continual sensual experience, never pondered, never questioned, never appreciated? “Life” is lifeless – “life” has no soul; it is a dead person watching life stream before his eyes, but never partaking of it. For what else brings the seemingly endless influx of experiences together and gives them meaning more than expressing (as opposed to simply riding the emotional “flow”) what life means? It brings order to the chaos; and from the order springs a symphony: taking many and varied objects and experiences, and utilizing them in tandem to create something beautiful, something more than that which is capable with each of the things on their own. It brings life to life.

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