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on writing and communicating

Mar 19, 2002 07:27 AM
by Eldon B Tucker

At 11:45 PM 3/18/02 -0500, you wrote:

Eldon wrote:

<<Do you mean to say: Even if we would rather not
acknowledge it, we have to think for ourselves. There
is something worthwhile in the postings on the list. If
willing, we can learn from others. Some materials
contain errors, disinformation, and result from
troll-like activity. Even so, we can get to their bottom
line and find what little value they contain. (I took
this as a challenge to see if I could sort out what you
said in the sentence above.)>>>>

Yeah, but you made it all much too simplistic!
Sorry, no cigar! Not a chance, really! Those
sentences are so short and simplistic that, I suspect,
even our house guest (who is known as a "dog" by
some people!) might, just possibly, figure them out!
Now I ask you in all seriousness, Eldon, how do you
expect people to learn to really "think for
themselves" if they're not challenged to do so in some
way? Eh? Or do you think that you "prefer" things
that are "easier" to figure out? What is it? Are you
so rich that you figure you shouldn't even have to
try to figure out new things---surely not?

One book I enjoyed reading was ON WRITING: A
MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT by Stephen King. It's partly
autobiographical and partly on writing clearly.

A good book is one that holds you. Once you
start reading it, you cannot put it down until
finished. The story holds you, and you don't
stumble on the words. Everything comes across
clearly, and your imagination is free to paint
colorful pictures of the action.

When the writing is more difficult, it makes
the reader struggle to decipher it. A simple
idea can be made hard with the wrong words.
A hard idea can be made easy with cleverly
chosen words. Picking the right words is a
skill we can all refine, just as an painter
learns to pick the right colors to go onto
the canvas.

Everyone develops their own writing style.
The philosophy that I try to apply to writing
would say: make the words transparent so that
the ideas can shine through.

Gerald would remind us of the "fog factor,"
which is a measure of how difficult a
particular passage is to read. When writing
or editing something, I'll let Microsoft
Word do a grammar check. When I'm through
editing, I'd consider it better if the
following have gone down:

sentences per paragraph
words per sentence
characters per word
number of passive sentences
Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level

Since I'm interested in the topic of
writing clearly, I thought it would be fun
to rework your sentence. You had mentioned
that, "My wife just read the preceding and
complained about running out of breath,
said I'd be thrown out of any English class!"
That caught my attention.

Writing clearly is important. But with
Theosophy, there is a counterbalancing
aspect to presenting materials.

Because of the complexity of the philosophy
and how everything is interrelated to
everything else, Theosophy is best taught
in an iterative manner.

Different aspects are presented each
time, with additional details given.
Not everything is directly stated, giving
the reader opportunity to bridge the gaps
in their own thinking and learn the art
of symbolic/metaphysical thought.

The goal is to bring someone to have an
exploring mind that thinks for itself and
is capable of sustained original insights.
The effort is not simply to indoctrinate
someone into a collection of rigid
metaphysical dogma.

The difficult balancing act is between
writing clearly and not saying everything
at once. It involves progressively explaining
things over a period of time rather than
trying to cram everything into a single
essay. When we acquire this skill, we
become teachers to some small degree.

Until we can teach and share what we've
learned, we only partially know it. It is
only when we have expressed our understanding
in the world that we have fully integrated
it into our lives. This includes expressing
it in our actions and expressing it in the
minds of others by our clear communication
of the insights.

There are two topics. First is how to
write clearly. There is no formula. We each
develop our own style. Second is how to
communicate the mysteries in an iterative,
progressive way. This may be in sharing
insights or in what we do in life. It could
even be in something as simple as our
making a phone call and cheering up a
discouraged friend.

We each have our own interests. For me, this
line of discussion offers more value than
the historic discussions. Clarity of mind,
connectedness to life, and learning to be
a light to the world are all important. The
haggling over half-a-dozen conflicting
theories over what a scrap of paper says
about what someone thought about someone
else a century ago seems far removed from
real life.

(Note that I got carried away with that
last sentence. 31 words! That's far too
long? Perhaps I should rewrite it?)

-- Eldon

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