a year of morning thanks
"People without hope don't write novels," Flannery O'Connor once wrote, and she was right. I may be overstating, but writing, or so it seems to me, attempts to bring some blessed clarity to the mess we're in. And, being human, we're almost always in a mess. Thus, when I punch these keys and the odd little letter formations run across the screen before me, I'm trying to make sense of my world. If I didn't believe such messes could be straightened out or at least understood, I wouldn't be sitting in this chair in my basement right now, tapping these keys.
And so, this morning, I'm thankful for a blog. I'm thankful because writing these words allows me the rich opportunity to at least attempt meaning and clarity.
"People without hope don't write novels" makes sense simply on the basis of heft--a novel is a heckuva investment; one doesn't simply turn 'em out in an afternoon. But there's also hope in a paragraph--or two or three.
Years ago, I sold a park sticker to a social worker and some tough kids from the city toting canoes into a state park on Lake Michigan. They put those canoes out in rough waters, some of them tipped, and four kids drowned. Were those deaths my fault? That's what I asked myself. I was 18 years old, and I knew that there was no way those canoes should have been put into the water.
That night a lifetime ago, long before I'd ever dreamed that someday, years later, I'd write novels and stories and essays and what not else, I sat down with an empty piece of paper--on what impulse, I don't know. My parents had already gone off to bed, so I sat down in the silence with a sheet of lined paper and wrote out what was going on in my mind and heart and soul at that moment.
I don't have that paper, and I don't have the slightest idea what I wrote, but I recognize this now, even though I had no idea what I was doing then: in trying to write out my thoughts, I was trying to make some sense out of the mess.
I don't doubt that technology is reshaping us in significant ways. I've come to believe that my students these days aren't as capable as their parents of the kind of sustained effort required to understand long readings or assignments. This immense storehouse of information, instantly accessible, has made them--and me--far more like surfers than scholars.
But I also recognize, even as I exercise the function, that typing in the words I am right now exercises an important power I have--and all of us do--the power to at least try to make sense of things. At least to try.
I'm somewhere close to 500 blog posts now since I started a year-and-a-half ago, and the focus with which I began was a ritual of morning thanks. Tomorrow, I'm slated to lead a discussion about the effects of technology on our students; it's a faculty workshop. I think I'm conscious of many changes this information age has created in us.
But I'm also conscious--and thankful--that this morning I can sit here and try to make sense of those changes. I'm thankful to be working at accomplishing an act--writing--that always carries with it the signature of hope itself, because hope is a very good thing.