Saturday, March 17, 2007

4:00 AM and wide awake

“So what did you write about?” she asked as we walked to the car.

It was 10:00 PM and we were on the way home from Sacred Grounds, Richmond’s premier coffee shop. We had been there since 7:00, kind of an impromptu date night, with the intent of a light supper and the relaxing cup of warm joe.

She is working on fleshing out the bones of a great book idea on her laptop. I had a little BSF homework left to do, passage analysis on Romans 12:3-8, and then the freedom to read or to write as I pleased.

“Hmm.” I cleared my throat. I had anticipated this question, and had already weighed my response. I had considered the parry, perhaps the distraction or the oblique, but opted for transparency. I wanted to be honest, but I didn’t want to cast a pall on the whole evening. “Disappointment, mostly…but it was good.”

She was quiet for a moment. Not the answer she had hoped for, but she was not surprised either. She knew that I wasn’t talking about her, or about us, but about me.

“Was it something from that book?,” she inquired, very slightly peeved, wanting to know if this was just me being gratuitously morose again or if there had actually been a spark of something meaningful in my answer. She had given me a wonderful little volume several days before entitled “The Pocket Muse-Ideas and Inspirations for Writing,” by Monica Wood which I had been reading with enjoyment.

“Sort of…well, yeah, definitely,” I replied unconvincingly. But as I considered the naked inadequacy of that answer in the quiet time after that, I realized that it really had been partly a result of something I had read.

“Cleverness is not wisdom” was the quote by Euripides that had stuck with me. Wood’s intent with that quotation was to expose the fallacy of prosaic artifice that does not serve the writer’s subject or intent, but instead attempts to impress the reader with the author’s intellect or deft technical skill. But the bigger difference between cleverness and wisdom is not in technique, but in ethical depth and veracity. Wisdom is informed by truthfulness, whereas in cleverness truth is optional and sometimes an encumbrance.

So what I had written in my journal was truthful. Painful, confessional, self-accusatory, lacking in cleverness, and with no pretense at wisdom, but definitely truthful.

And truth can set a man free.

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