Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Reading good writing is like being allowed entry into a vast cathedral whose ancient architecture ascends ever upwards, each ledge and window offering an unseen vista that can be glimpsed only by beginning the climb. (And how forbidden is that particular act! Who has the gall to clutch one's hands around the hooks and ledges of the inside of a church? Yet reading is by its very nature a somewhat unnatural. Someone you have never met has decided to unleash their most private thoughts upon the world, inviting you inside of their innermost psyche. To peer and proke and laugh and mock. To exalt and be enveloped, perhaps.) You scale and pause and look below and see how far you've come. Occasionally, if not often, you fall. You rise and try again, grappling.

That's writing at its best, of course. At its worst, it denigrates the best within us, if only because a shoddy thing, by nature, mocks the notion of aspiration itself. In this bold new age that is neither particularly bold nor new, the net is flooded with writing of all sorts, multiplying like some kind of cancerous cell that cannot be stopped. I wonder if the internet itself might implode from the strain of all those letters alongside themselves, each attempting to paint a portrait of a particular mind, seeking.

Seeking what? There lies the question.

If writing just becomes a form of ego, then it can become nothing more obtrusive or invasive than a needlepoint hung on the inside corridor of your grandmother's house, lovingly stitched together over the course of several weekends at the family cottage. Full of emotion and heartfelt sincerity, to be sure, but lacking the edge and innovation that demands a thorough reckoning everytime one sits down at the keyboard to type or read.

More and more I'm seeing writing itself as a sacred act. (Can an agnostic feel the sense of the sacred upon entering a church? I suppose he can, if only because even one struck dumb by the essential mystery of the universe can acknowledge one's own puny impotency when faced with the collected efforts of a thousand craftsman reaching for more.) If craft gives way to communication, then in five, ten years time, will we be nothing more noble than a herd of geese flying alongside each other, intuitively understanding what the other is trying to say, allowing electronic osmosis to take the place of aggresive intent at the altar of linguistic competency?

Too late, I'm sure. Everyone who can be allowed into the internet's holy vector has already arrived, or is quietly pushing the door open. Which is as it should be. Voices unheard quickly become silenced even to themselves. I just hope that the words on the screen continuted to be viewed as the beginning of a long and astounding ascent, rather than a culmination of intent that has commenced before it has truly even begun.