powerful ideas and the language we use to communicate them
Mar 20, 2002 08:29 AM
by Eldon B Tucker
<<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.>>
In my case, as far as I can see, "writing clearly" (rather than
"clearly enough") about Theosophic things would often involve
watering down my intended meaning to the extent that what's left,
(after catering to umpteen perceived needs, definitions,
fashions, biases, current topics, etc, etc), might hardly even
resemble my original thoughts. Sorry, I prefer not to write that
There may be two aspects to writing clearly. One is to develop a
personal style of writing that is most effective in communicating.
That part is good. The other is to submit to the current fashion
of "politically correct" regulations. (This would include things
like saying "humankind" rather than "humanity", not cussing and
questioning fashionable politics, and the liberal use of fashionable
buzzwords like "multi-cultural".) This is not so good.
I would say that the meaning is not watered down, unless you or I
are trying to write in a style that we're not fully skilled in
yet. If so, we are either stick to a style of writing that we can
express ourselves in or we learn to become more skillful in the
I see writing for these lists as an opportunity to
explore/express meaning, primarily: If I feel that I have
explored and expressed meaning well enough from MY point of view,
and expressed myself in keeping with MY standards, then, IMO, I
have at least made a "meaningfull enough" dent in something, as
far as I can see, even if my posts are totally ignored in turn.
That is one value to the lists. We can explore ideas that we are
interested in. The other value is that we can observe how well
people understand what we say. We can take input from them and
experiment with different ways of expressing ourselves. It's an
opportunity to get immediate feedback from people reading our
> 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.
Well, maybe you have some relevant points there, Eldon, in a way
. . . maybe . . . But I don't see how I can please
everybody and myself as well --- in the kind of basic terms that
I see as relevant here --- without turning into some kind of
less-meaningful politician or caricature of myself, in some way.
We can never please everyone. It's enough that we can write
something and have the feeling that we've produced something of
value. It's a bonus if we get positive feedback from others whom
have read and liked it.
I feel that these discussion lists ought to be viewed as offering
us all FREEDOM to express ourselves in whatever way that's most
MEANINGFUL to each of us in terms of genuineness as per our
"Theosophically related" interpetive tendencies, basically.
That's how they work, as long as people don't try to dominate
things with their personal views and put down everyone else.
If the cost of pursuing our free thoughts is that we get ignored
and complained about, does that mean that we should water down
our thoughts into something that's "more generally
understandable" and/or "more generally acceptable and
fashionable" even if that kind of "understadable/acceptable" is
much too drivelish from our own perspective? In my case, since
I'm not pretending to be any kind of sage or teacher, here, that
kind of cost is too high for me.
We should take the approach that seems right to us. Even so, if we
want to communicate with a particular group of people, we would
want to slant our writing such that they find it easier to read.
There is a correspondence between the writing style that I like
and the software development and data analysis that I do at work.
In both cases, keeping things simple, clear, direct, and doing the
work with the least complexity and fewest statements is best.
This is reductionism applied to the proper degree. When done just
right, we can simplify things, bringing clarity out of complexity
and confusion. Done too far, we oversimplify and destroy things.
Knowing just how far to go requires skill.
My willingness and interest in participating on these lists seems
to be directly proportional to whatever intuitive freedoms I
might detect/suspect from moment to moment. Stulfity those
freedoms, add too many rules, and I'm out.
Right now, there are few rules. The basic one is to treat others
with respect, to not indulge in personal attacks. Another one is
to not violate copyright laws.
You "understandable/acceptable" sages can stay, (whoever you
are), and sage to each other to your hearts content . . . but
I don't see that kind of boxed-in and stylized saging as
particularly relevant or interesting, on the whole, though I know
of lots of exceptions that MIGHT not be interepreted, in a sense,
as too boxed-in and stylized.
We all have our particular things we like to write about. Some
want to practice writing as sages. Others may write as poets,
scientists, jokesters, or even as troublemakers. The entire
spectrum is open, except when people start mistreating each other.
Besides, it's easy enough to ignore/delete posts that don't
Yes. It's like reading a newspaper or magazine where we skip over
the articles that don't interest us.
One of the things I like about Brigitte's posts is the various
spellink and grammatikal errors combined wiz the varioous
qoutes/comments in such a way that I find myself needing to
figure out various possiible meanings in her posts "for myself."
(Thank God that I often make plenty of spelling, grammatical, and
meaning-related errors myself! Besides God, I guess I have my
karma to thank for that! Why "thank God"? Well, isn't that part
of how we all sort of naturally concede to basic rules and
I hadn't thought of that aspect to her postings. Yes, I can see
where there could be an element of humor there.
In other words, I suspect that one ought to be able to read
anything at all, (tabloids, propaganda, lies, fiction,
disinformation, disruption tactics, etc, etc) and be able to
extract various wisdoms from it.
It's possible to do, when the posting catches our interest and we
stay away from the <DELETE> key. As a reader, we can find value
in many things. But as a writer, we might want to perfect our
own personal style. For me, clarity is important. I like to
work on being more clear each time I write. It's an ideal,
though, and I may not always succeed.
In a sense, I find in Brigitte's posts breaths of fresh air.
Whatever else her posts might be, in whatever interpretive terms,
they are, after all, products of . . . at least one human
being . . . ?
Her postings certain add variety. I don't consider them balanced,
but rather as an one-sided presentation. She seems to be strongly
promoting a particular view as someone in a debate or an attorney
in court would do. Considering them in a skeptical light, I find
bits and pieces that are interesting. At times, it's also
difficult to distinguish her comments from things she's quoting.
She doesn't take proper care in making quoted text, making it seem
that she's writing something when it's really something someone
> 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?)
You go on as if you're afraid that we might all have a mental age
of about three. Would you believe five? Six? Maybe higher, in
A Zen-like approach would say that simple language or no speech at
all can communicate whole worlds of knowledge.
Again, I'd like to make the distinction between deep, powerful
ideas and the words or language needed to convey them. I'd say
that the simpler the language that conveys some deep wisdom, the
better one has spoken or written. Writing powerfully is a skill
that we could all benefit from. It is an art that we individually
perfect. It's one aspect of sharing our lives with others.
[Back to Top]
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application