The essay that I never posted

I have a new essay up on my essay site called “On Holy Fear”. Well, at least it is new to my readers. I actually wrote it about this time last year (all except for a few paragraphs anyway). But it was so awful I could not stand to post it.

Sad to say, I reread it, and it is still awful. But I am going to post it anyway.

In a way, I think it makes an interesting case study. Its catastrophic failure is more revealing of my peculiarities than some of my essays that were more successful. I suppose that this could be a good thing.

In theory, I agree with Joel Dueck. We should cherish those moments that show us up as we really are. But sometimes I wonder which picture is really me? And how come none of them have ever served to make me kinder?

But I digress. “On Holy Fear” was not a “catastrophic” failure because it failed to live up to my expectations. It certainly failed to meet them, but that is not why I failed to post it. After all, “The Dangers of Historical Symbolism” was a great disappointment to me. But I posted the dang thing anyway.

“The Dangers of Historical Symbolism” at least had the virtue of alerting people to various historical personages who are commonly overlooked. Even if the essay fell short of what I wanted it to accomplish, I could still feel that if a person could overlook the bad writing they might get something of worth out of it.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing for “On Holy Fear.” It will educate no one and it failed to convey what I wanted it to convey. You would not even know the amount of work that I put into. It reads like a stream of consciousness piece. You would think that it was typed as I thought it and unrevised.

I think the fact that “Holy Fear” shows so little sign of having any work is what embarrasses me the most about it. If I had written it up in a day and posted it on my Ape Man site with all the rest of my poorly thought-out blog posts I would not have minded. But to have spent all the time on it that I did and have it still come out like it did was quite dispiriting.

My big mistake was to get cocky. I thought my writing skills had been improving since I had first started writing essays. So I thought I could get away with trying to express a feeling of sorts as opposed to an idea. I have never been good at expressing feelings but I thought that an expression of a particular feeling was a necessary follow up to “Spinoza, Einstein, and The Failure of Reason”.

You see, I knew that most people would see “Spinoza, Einstein, and the Failure of Reason” as some kind of post-modern argument that truth is unknowable. But that was not my intention at all. I firmly believe that the truth is knowable even if it is not provable. (The modern mind always gets those two things mixed up.) Put it another way, just because we cannot encompass the truth does not mean that we can never know any of the truth.

But since I do believe in a sort of common revelation (though I do not mean that term in the same way that most Christians do), so I believe it is possible to search for the truth. In fact, I think that it is imperative that we do so.

So I never intended for “Spinoza, Einstein, and the Failure of Reason” to denigrate the importance of Truth. Nor did I intend to dismiss those who search for the truth in the hopes of finding it. Rather, I wanted to stir up a kind of fear in the hearts and minds of those who feel that the truth matters. To accomplish this end, the false sense of authority that people impute to reason needed to be destroyed.

To most people, the desire to put fear into people’s hearts is a desire to dissuade them from doing something. But to my mind, the truth is dangerous and as such it is important to stay afraid when you pursue it.

But how do you express such a thought or explain why?

Fear is a feeling. Explaining its importance is like trying to explain the importance of love. You might be confident in your mind of it is importance. But try to explain it and all that will happen is that you will sound trite or overly mystical. And that in a nut shell is why I put so much effort into “On Holy Fear” for so little return.
I would write out paragraphs or pages and then I would turn around and delete them all because they were either incoherent or trite. No matter what tack I took the essay always seem to turn out too much like a sermon for my tastes. And I hate sermons.

But after wasting a lot of my time I finally gave up. I gathered up all my voices into an imaginary audience and I set out to write out my essay in the form of a sermon. It was a desperate act based on the theory that if you can’t beat them you might as well join them.

The fact that the wind was blowing hard at the time that I gave in provided me with notion of how to go about using my experience in the trades to explain the importance of fear. The result was that the first part of my essay was stupid and a touch overly macho, but at least it was somewhat coherent.

Unfortunately, explaining the importance of fear was the easy part (which is probably why I spent too much time doing just that). The more important part from my point of view was to explain why the truth was dangerous and why it should be feared even as it should be sought.

This was the part that defeated me. I just could not find the words to express what I wanted to say without sounding trite or incoherent. Since I am prone to overdoing things, I managed to do trite and incoherent at the same time.

In retrospect, I never should have tackled subject. Instead, I should have written an essay about Alexander Solzhenitsyn or Menno Simons. The lives of both of these men always come to my mind when I think of the dangers of the truth. Not because both them were oppressed by the authorities. But rather, how they both became enraptured with the power of the truth that it became a kind of idol to them. So great was what they found that they lost interest is looking for more. It must have seemed to them that they had already become so much greater than their contemporaries that there could hardly have been farther to go. As a result, the truth that they found ceased to become something that ennobled them and instead became something that damned them. (This is truer of Solzhenitsyn than Simons, but Solzhenitsyn has not died yet so maybe I should not rush to pass judgment).

Admittedly, that all seems more mystical than practical. Still, I think it would have been more profitable to write an essay explaining my perception of the life and works of one of those two men than it would have been to take my feeling in the abstract and try to justify it. Originally, I intended to work Solzhenitsyn into my essay. But his life and works deserve an essay all their own. Working him in as a bit player in support of a larger point just did not work. At least, it did not work the first 42 times I tried it.

Anyway, that is why the essay has its bizarre form. Originally I was going to cut the second part of the essay off and post what was left over at my Trade Watcher site. That probably would have been the best way of salvaging something halfway decent to post out of all the work that I put into it. But when I reread it I saw that it would take more work to edit it into a form that would make sense for my Trade Watcher site then it would take to vomit out a few more paragraphs and finish it off.

Laziness won out, naturally. Besides, I figure that a little public (or sort of public) humiliation every now and then is good for the soul.

I would like to think that putting it up will inspire me to make time to write another essay so that people don’t see “On Holy Fear” the first time that they go to my essay site. But I doubt it will work that way.

Changes in my work situation that happened right around when I gave up working on “On holy fear” mean I have less free time to work on my essays. And while that is not really much of an excuse, because you can always find the time for things that are important to you, it means that I have to spend that much more of my free time writing if I want to produce one. That’s work and I am lazy by nature.

I do intend to write at least two new essays this year. But I know myself well enough to know what that is worth.

One Response to “The essay that I never posted”

  1. […] This is a little out my regular style. An explanation/apology can be found here. […]

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