Friday, June 27, 2008
I enjoy the reflective essay. But there are many voices and mine is only one of them.
When I began blogging I wanted to create a site where I could publish lengthy quotations from the books I read. Without being in graduate school, I live the life of the interdisciplinary scholar, always sifting through a different book and taking notes. Although these books have little to do with each other, I draw connections.
I draw connections because I see connections. Many think I am mad. The art of linking is a mad art. Linkages can be found anywhere.
Linkages between life and art, linkages between science and religion, linkages between architecture and writing.
Because I do a lot of reading I’m constantly discovering tidbits of wisdom; and that’s what I had originally called this website, “The Philosopher’s Tidbits.”
Since then, things have changed.
The first changes began to show themselves when I added to the pages my own ideas. It began with a short essay, and then a longer one.
I continued to publish lengthy quotations in between my essays. The purpose was twofold. By typing the quotes into my computer, I learned the material of these great thinkers. And two, I suspected that I could increase my page views if I published a famous quote on the Net every couple days.
I also have a long history of copying and recopying.
My earliest memory of obsessive copying is during my sophomore year in high school. I was taking an AP European History class and it was impossible for me to remember anything without copying it down in small print. I was very meticulous and neat. My handwriting drew the attention of my classmates. Before the AP test, I had two stacks of ink-covered pages.
And then in college I remember one of my professors gave us an assignment to keep a “literary theory journal". While she only meant for us to jot down a couple definitions, I set about the Sisyphean task of collecting two volumes of notes and quotations on literary theory. These journals epitomized my habit of overachievement; labors so absolutely unnecessary that they became marvels in their own right.
Therefore: I have a tendency to write things down, especially the thoughts of others.
The line between graphomania and reverence is a thin one. At times I copied down the thoughts of others because they inspired me. At other times I copied them down because I needed words to explain things about life. And there were also times when the physical act of copying satisfied a deep urge inside of me.
Could I have been using the words of others to form a wall around myself?
I am a writer.
I am also afraid to write.
Reaching for ready-made sentences relieves the terror of having to say something original.
And the words great thinkers used seemed different from my own. Their words were more permanent. Their aphorisms like pieces of jade.
I am an idealist. I will always look for the best, and try to achieve my best potential.
The pitfall of this thinking is that I am often mesmerized by what is esteemed “great”. And by fixing a perpetual gaze on others, I undermine my own abilities.
Sometimes I’m just lazy and would rather quote somebody else instead of writing an original sentence.
Whatever the value and greatness of another’s words, nothing compares to the freshness and originality of my own tongue.
I have taken refuge in the words of others for too long; now I am ready to speak.
I no longer want to be afraid.
At a certain age, a person’s identity and purpose gains momentum—
Until the direction cannot be easily averted.
We are—one day we realize—exactly who we have longed to be.
Whatever posturing we did in our youth blends indistinguishably into an essential personality and person—
This is then a symbolic and literal transition from the words of others into our own.
Our own language.
A prelude to the knowledge of our own being.