Leaves of Glass

It took 316 days for it to fall — my one artistic accomplishment a mess of glass shards on the hardwood floor. The sculpture, a self-portrait, was the relic of a lonely summer in college, that I’d made mostly from recycled materials. Now it looked like it would need to be thrown in the garbage. Yet once I picked my way closer to it, I could see that, despite its fall, my sculpture was mostly intact. I placed it back on its shelf, swept up most of the shards, and dabbed up the rest with a piece of wheat bread. 

That was last Tuesday; the same day, incidentally, I bought this website. Ever since graduating from Wheaton, I haven’t had much of an outlet for writing and consequently haven’t written much. I hope to change that here. One of my former professors, Alan Jacobs, writes about the pleasure of reading at whim; this is my attempt to write at whim. 

Of course, there’s something unavoidably hubristic about having one’s own website. As I looked down at my sculpture, prostrate on the hardwood floor, the passage from 1 Samuel 5 came to mind: “when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon [an idol] had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD”. George Orwell, in his essay, “Why I Write” says that the first reason writers write is “sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about.” He’s right, of course: any kind of public writing brings with it the temptation of pride — a temptation I am not immune to, and about which my prostrate sculpture seemed to warn. Still, my motivation to write and to have this site isn’t entirely egotism. 

Orwell goes on: 

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story.

This too is a motivation. It’s my hope that I will be able to articulate some of the beauty I see around me. While I was in Burundi I wrote a haiku a day for that purpose; I aim to do something similar here in prose. To articulate beauty requires a skillfulness of speech I lack, but can be honed through practice. This is a space for trying. 

And then there’s a third reason Orwell doesn’t mention: Writing is a difficult pleasure. I enjoy it — even when all the right words elude me. I’ve found that the practice of writing focuses my attention, concentrates my memories, and denies me the comfort of thinking I know what I think. And so it is a skill I’d like to practice and cultivate. 

In his essay, Orwell says that writers “desire to share an experience which [they] feel is valuable and ought not to be missed.” Which brings me to you. Ever since there’s been paper, people have shared their lives through written words; with the advent of digital communication, sharing can take place almost in real time. This is my attempt to share some of my life. If you’d like, you can follow along, in any of the usual ways offered by the Internet (RSS, email updates, following the blog). I’ll be posting every week or two, with reflections on life, books, and God. We’ll see where it goes. You can share with me through comments and email and hopefully, you can keep me humble along the way.