More from Yancey


More from Yancey

Reading any worthwhile writing is engaging the author in a kind of dialogue. I know that I have allowed you to overhear far more of the conversation that you might be entirely comfortable with or entertained by. However, writers that really provoke thought and who provide fresh and interesting perspectives are really few and far-between. Moreover, I think Yancey needs an even wider audience than he already has. There is a refreshing generosity about his prose and attitude that rewards even the casual reader. Soul Survivor is a nice place to start because while it is a complete chronicle or story, the individual pieces can be read separately, and there is no need to attempt the entire book in a sitting. In addition, Yancey's genuine enthusiasm for the writers he discusses evokes in the attentive reader a desire to become better acquainted with their work.

I greatly regret that I am coming to the end of Soul Survivor and wish that I could read more and more about this too-often neglected subject--the effect of writers on the life of an author, on the life of a Christian.

from Soul Survivor--Frederick Buechner Philip Yancey

Every writer must overcome a kind of shyness, putting out of mind the fear that we are being arrogant by thrusting ourselves upon you the reader, and egotistical by assuming our words are worth your time. Why should you care about what i have to say? What right have I to impose myself on you? In another context, Simone Weil presents a kind of answer: 'I cannot conceive the necessity for God to love me, when I feel so clearly that even with human beings affection for me can only be a mistake. But i can easily imagine that he loves that perspective of creation which can only be seen from the point where I am." That is all any writer can offer, especially a writer of faith: a unique perspective of creation, a point of view visible only from the point where I am.

There is some truth here and a huge point that is overlooked. Some of us write because we cannot not write. Writing is a process and a prayer--it is a form of analysis that reifies what happens to us. In a sense things are not real and not internalized until they are written. I read that and it sounds nonsensical, and yet I also know that I live it.

Writing is a form of prayer. It is a form of appreciation of God's creation and of consideration and careful meditation on His works. Writing calls us into otherness in a way that little else does. I suppose, in some sense, this is why I don't get tremendously worked up over issues that exercise a great many Catholics. Poor music at Mass--oh well--Jesus is there. Strange liturgy, odd sermon, so long as the Eucharist is consecrated correctly, Jesus is present. Yes--it could be much more beautiful, much more respectful, much more reverent. But then reverence comes from the participant, not from the planner, and the attitude of the hearts in the pews is more important than any external trapping.

However, assault me with the execrable NAB translation--leaden, dull, and sometimes downright idiotic--or place a lector at the ambo who not only needs locution lessons but who hasn't passed his second grace reading class yet, and I'm ready to go ballistic. The words of Scripture are scared, the writing is holy and transforming. Yes, I know that all the rest is as well, but we each have our areas of sensitivity.

But writing and words break through the stupor and astound and convict me. Reading scripture and writing about it give God true access to this stony heart. I think about it as a heart encased in limestone. The Living Word of God is a true and pure stream that carries its payload of carbonic acid to etch away slowly. One day the entombed heart is set free to love Him and all of His creation. This grace for me comes in the form of words and language. Or perhaps this consolation for me is the grace of the gift of speech and thought. We pray in words and words have made a home with me and bring the world to me in a way that little else does. Perhaps this is why I am more skeptical than some about the worthiness of some universally acclaimed writers who are prone to sloppiness and misuse of the language. Perhaps that is why, conta Dale Ahlquist and others, I have no time for the poetic theorizing of G.K. Chesterton, whose own poetic works evoke little or no sympathy from anyone really in tune with poetry. For Chesterton's work (the vast majority of it at least) the word verse is more appropriate than poetry.

We are all constructed differently, all given a slightly different perspective on the world and on reality. And we are all blessed beyond blessing to be who we are and how we are. In some ways our words and our lives celebrate this. Yes, there is time and cause for action, but only after considered thought and reason, after prayer, and after conversation with God and with his Saints. For me, this occurs in writing, in the world of words--wonderful, varied, multitextured, anastomosing, refreshing. I suppose I take as my essential credo, the centerpiece of my celebration of language, this reminder from the Gospel of John:

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 20, 2003 8:12 AM.

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