Monday, August 31, 2015

Sursum Corda: Here, here!

Original image from Pixabay.
I don't know if you saw Bishop James Conley's article, Sursum Corda in the National Catholic Register a few months ago, but I've been dying to write a followup on it ever since I first saw it.

The overall thrust of the the 4-page spread was this:
Reading is a lost art in our culture, and reading is necessary to reclaim our cultural identity.

I have two words to say in response:
Here! Here!

While I do not agree wholeheartedly with his taste in books, (Having read something else by Willa Cather, I find that her writing leaves something to be desired) I do agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment that literature holds in it our cultural identity, and we must read to know that identity.

Bishop Conley is absolutely right, and I think we should take it a step further.

Writing is also quickly becoming a lost art. We’ve gotten so good at writing e-mails (which, on the whole, tend to be brief), Facebook updates (which are very brief), and Tweets (which are downright Laconic), that we’ve lost the art of real writing.

I agree with Bishop Conley in that we need to recover reading in order to recover our real cultural heritage, but we also need to cultivate writing if we are to give real life to our cultural future.

I think it just might break my heart if our generation's only tangible cultural legacy was reality television, so here are a few thoughts for you on starting your life as a scribbler. You don’t have to be any great shakes at this to make a contribution to the future. Heck, you don’t even have to share your work. There are some pretty big names in literature whose writings were only published posthumously.

The thing that’s important is to process your thoughts, and set them into an order that is logical. It means you’ll have more introspection into your own life.

Here are some ideas for how you might choose to get started writing in your own life.

(1) Keep a diary.
You can write whatever you feel like, or whatever you need to. Your personal diary can include:
  • A catalog of what you did that day.
  • Thoughts on whatever the drama is in your life.
  • Your list for the next time you go to confession. (Pretty sure I’d burn this page after I left the confessional, though!)
(2) Art Journaling.
I know this is supposed to be about writing, but there’s nothing wrong with doing a drawing or some pretty lettering to highlight a point or a quotation that you’re journaling on. A lot of art journals I’ve seen on Pinterest easily have as much text as they have pictures.
(3) Write poetry.
Poetry is a great literary form for anyone who’s looking to set their thoughts on paper, in a way that forces them to meditate on their thoughts long enough to set them into a particular rhyme and meter (or computer, as the case may be, but I recommend paper).

Poetry is one of those places where - no really - you don’t have to be any good. You can even get famous without being very good. I know that in my time in high school I was made to study people whose writing I didn't like. (What? Your English teacher did that, too?? Gasp and alarm!) Though… I admit that my opinion may have been colored by the fact that I had no choice in what we read.
(4) Participate in National Novel Writing Month.
"NaNoWriMo," as it is lovingly called by participants, describes itself as, “30 Days and Nights of Literary Abandon”, and it’s pretty true. I freely confess that this is - in part - a shameless plug of a program I love and believe in strongly.

Having participated in NaNoWriMo for ten years, I think I’m pretty well situated to tell you how little writing ability or instruction is needed to participate. They’re not - not at all. The only thing you need is the determination to plug out 50,000 words worth of novel first draft in 30 days - or alt least try really hard.  (NaNoWriMo occurs pecifically during November, but I understand that they do other novel writing events throughout the year nowadays.)

A first draft is a great way to get your thoughts out - and the best part is that because it is a first draft, it is expected to be lousy. (I can’t tell you how many embarrassing spelling mistakes I’ve found when I’ve been reading through what I’ve written.) Use it to draft your Great American Novel, but make sure you go back and revise it for plot holes and edit it for grammatical errors - LATER.
We need to know and reclaim our literary heritage. It’s important - you have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going, and you have to be willing to stretch yourself into places you’ve never been to forge the path into the future.

So, start reading the classics - one good book every month or so, and start writing, start drawing, start creating the future.

We need to start doing this now because the culture is lost. Literature can be a pretty strong indicator of that.

Case-in-point: Just about all of the books I read in my college Modern American Literature class were really depressing. They were largely postmodern, and later. One of the strong undercurrents of postmodernism is that there's no point, no standard, no real meaning to living life. Don't you find that to be very depressing?

The idea that there is no truth - no ultimate standard - no real meaning in anything is pretty darn depressing. It's no wonder people try so hard to fill the God-sized holes in their hearts with things that won't satisfy them. It’s up to us to get ourselves and those around us out of this cultural rut.

So Read! Write! Know your cultural heritage and forge your culture’s future!

No comments:

Post a Comment