As a writer and a reader these lives are intimately intertwined as one. Why do we write? Why do we read?
It is a great tragedy, I believe, that there is an impetus to write for ego and vanity. Perhaps that has always been the case. But to write merely for oneself misses the greater point of writing: to enter into conversation with the dead as well as the living.
Writing is not a solitary endeavor as many might think. It is a deeply intimate and relational enterprise. We forge relationships with writers past, present, and (in all likelihood) future. We enter the great pilgrimage of life through writing as we write for others. To engage with others, to enter the lives of others, to touch the lives of others is the main purpose of writing. Whether it be to enlighten the intellect, bring beauty into the world and lives of others, or simply to give voice to the voiceless.
Reading is also the entering into this great pilgrimage of life and coming into relationships with the dead and the living. In reading we encounter the faces and lives of people distance and different, yet equally near and familiar. Reading allows us to enter into the great conversation and pilgrimage of life by forging relationships with people past, present, and (without knowing it) future. How many people have read, for instance, Shakespeare? How many people will read Shakespeare in the future? By reading Shakespeare you yourself have entered the life of those past, present, and future reading Shakespeare as part of their journey through the cosmos.
Writing and reading, therefore, are also spiritual endeavors without realizing it. Writing and reading are alternative, or supplemental, means by which humans can engage in “the big questions of life.” Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is the meaning of life? Writing and reading is the ultimate cosmopolitan temple with multicultural reach. We find, in this temple of writing and reading, persons from the past, the present, and will find new names and faces added to it in the future. It is the unbroken chain of human life stretching back for millennia and stretching forward into new millennia. It encompasses east and west, north and south. All genders and races find a home in the temple of literature.
We write and read to become more fully human. We write and read to shepherd and guide souls through the vicissitudes of life and the turbulence of history, human passions and intellect. We write and read to join with the luminous lights of the past calling us to the heavens and so that we ourselves may become lights for generations to come.
Hesiod, Paul Krause in real life, is the editor of VoegelinView and a writer on art, culture, literature, politics, and religion for numerous journals, magazines, and newspapers. He is the author of The Odyssey of Love and the Politics of Plato, and a contributor to the College Lecture Today and the forthcoming book Diseases, Disasters, and Political Theory. He holds master’s degrees in philosophy and theology (biblical & religious studies) from the University of Buckingham and Yale, and a bachelor’s degree in economics, history, and philosophy from Baldwin Wallace University.
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