I’ve been reading about communication and connection again. Partly, I’m mulling it in the context of my own relationships. Partly, I keep a finger on that pulse because I’m a writer, and writing is communication. See? We’re doing it right now. Wild.
I’m thinking about ethos, logos and pathos. This is Aristotelian stuff. A rough translation might be credibility; reasoning; and emotiveness, or passion. That’s the three-legged stool of rhetoric, or the art of communicating in a way that makes a difference. (One German information theorist I’ve read refers to it as “apobetics,” a change of state incited by the reception and interpretation of transmitted information. That’s relatively robotic, but I suppose it doesn’t make the ancient Greeks any less insightful.)
All that’s to say that I’ve lost my groove over the last year. For one, we felt it deeply important to write about the Pearl child-training travesty, but dealing with fringe heresy, especially such devastating heresy, was a long, dark tunnel I don’t want to re-enter anytime soon. I met some fantastic new friends–a light in that darkness–but it also attracted an unpleasant segment whose presence really made me reluctant to start new conversations on spiritual issues.
For another, and perhaps more deeply and subtly, I unwisely allowed a foolish person to get near a cherished long-term dream of mine. As is the way with fools, the dream got damaged in the process. It was something woven into Scienda, and it’s been incredibly hard to find all the pieces and put my sense of communication back together.
The part that’s gone missing isn’t ethos. I stand on who I am, and much to my surprise, that’s working out fine over time. It’s not logos. I could write reams of dispassionate argumentation, and have done when it was called for.
But unless it’s the one thing called for, I don’t care to.
What’s missing is the passion. And it’s not that I lack a desire to communicate. It’s that I’ve been sitting back mulling over what’s important enough to me that I’d risk again.
See, what matters to me isn’t ultimately argumentation. And it isn’t making beautiful words–that’s just playing. At the end of the day, I don’t care whether they come out beautiful or not. What I was passionate about was this, and this is just a fraction:
–Marc, Hank and Randy shootin’ the breeze about Texas, theology and living together in hilarious, goofy peace
–Me and Heather and the girls having huge long rambles about finding a place in the world where we can be authentically ourselves
–Finding a common perspective and kindred spirits with folks like Laurie
–Getting our butts kicked at the Languages Game by Walt (rest in peace) and Grace
–And so many more friends who’ve stopped to share words along the way.
And those of you who still walk this earth, are still around the neighbourhood. I can’t thank you enough for that. What I realize from getting these thoughts out into the clear is, we came together around the presence of God. It was a proof that I’m in the right place, being a writer who openly expresses faith.
And yet I just spent a year hearing the message that I should not be a writer who openly and forthrightly expresses my convictions. Because “serious writing” doesn’t do that.
I call bullcrap. You know what brought the passion out in my words? Bonding with you around pieces like Come to the Waters. That right there was the greatest height of my writing career up to that point, because you came and saw with me. It wasn’t you guys looking at me like some hoity-toity writerly person on some synthetic pedestal. (That would be weird.) It was us, looking out together.
And seeing eternity.
If there is anything beautiful and artistic about this little online scrapbook of writings, it’s because I was stretching to see Him, and I was inspired to new heights by you doing the same alongside. My passion is to fellowship with you through writing. Not to make every sentence fit a certain stylistic convention. And never, never, no never to cast your fellowship aside in the name of fool’s-gold ambitions.
I don’t want the synthetic pedestal. I want the fellowship of sinners.
To the majority of the world, this is an invalid passion. But we have been invalids together, and still are.
To trample on that comfort would be foolish indeed.
As to serious communication with a skeptical (or sometimes outright hostile) world, we’ve done alright by that here too. When I cease to understand what moves the differing hearer–who is sometimes you and sometimes me–then by all means, it’s time for me to shut up and merely write stylish divertimenti that make no difference.
That’s excellent advice for those who lack the knowledge or heart to use the tools of considered communication–both toward ideas and fellow souls in travel.
But it’s not right for the people I know, and it doesn’t fit the community I love and respect. It’s not what I aspire to.
I aspire to journey with you. Perhaps a little while, perhaps longtime. Argumentation can be elegant architecture; storytelling may hold magic. But the beautiful thing is knowing you, and looking outward together.
That’s important enough to keep trying and learning and growing. To take risks again. And again. For as long as you’re here.