Writing for the Age: Three Questions

Should I try to write more comfortingly? But I am of a nature to find comfort only in reality, and indeed to find the greatest comfort there. The kind of comfort that masks what is immediately unappealing to face, or that simplifies what is inherently difficult to comprehend, is false comfort, and therefore the most dangerous obstacle to learning and freedom — that is, to the true comforts (the uncomfortable comforts) derived from facing and comprehending.

Should I offer more grounds for hope? But the goal of thought is not hope, but understanding. To seek hope is to think with a view to a predetermined and (supposedly) desirable conclusion. This, however, is precisely what proper reasoning must never do; the fatal flaw of medieval Christian philosophy lay in this very conflict between the unrestricted search of the rational mind and the imperative of restraining one’s logic within the prescribed limits of revealed “hope.” Nevertheless, and not merely incidentally, there is hope in understanding, because understanding is a form of control — the only form ultimately possible to man, but also, as it happens, the highest form imaginable.

Should I make my ideas more digestible for our democratic era? No, and that is exactly what one must never do, especially in a democratic era. Democratization with respect to thinking and learning, as our ubiquitous “social media” obsession more than amply proves, is the death of everything that qualifies written thoughts as thoughts: the details, the complicated allusions, the imagery, and the mind’s natural revulsion before the writer’s urge to simplify and reduce thought until the original and perhaps inexpressible idea is submerged forever in a murky and fathomless sea of clarity.

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