What I Do

I.

I write.

At some point, I concluded there were too many things that did not make sense. I decided to take time to try to understand some of those things. I use writing to keep track of what I’ve figured out, and to make note of what remains unclear.

I’m not exactly a writer, but it’s OK to call me that. Or at least I’m not the kind of writer who will write whatever it takes to get his/her name in print. I haven’t been that preoccupied with fame.

I write about things that puzzle or interest me. Sometimes my writings get published. Usually they don’t. Perversely, the ones that are not officially published — that just appear in ordinary blog posts — are often more accessible than those that appear in peer-reviewed professional journals. You don’t need an expensive journal subscription to read a blog post.

People who are not familiar with intellectual debate may think the idea is just to spout off a lot of hot air — to vent opinions and not to care what others think. I realize there are a lot of writers whose work fits that description. But that is pretty much the opposite of what my writing is about.

As far as I can tell, what I write is a fair approximation of the truth. Where it is not, I want to know. I often phrase my conclusions in tentative terms; I often invite additions and corrections. The texts of my blog posts themselves are subject to revision. Even without feedback, I do revisit them, from time to time, when I notice error or incompleteness.

Often, what I write is not what people want to hear, or what they are used to hearing. I am not doing this in order to be part of any particular group or movement, or to oppose any other specific group or movement. I am doing it simply to try to express what appears to be the current reality. This is not a way to become popular within any particular ideology.

There certainly are experts, in universities and elsewhere, who could correct many of the things I write. But this fact is not helpful. As I know from firsthand observation, there are other experts who could then come along and correct the experts who are correcting me. The important question is not whether someone, somewhere, at some point in history, has figured out the right answer. The important question is whether that answer is now in the hands of people who need it.

I try not to rehash things that others have already hashed out. Rather, I tend to write when I have experiences or perspectives that are not appearing in the materials I am finding. Sometimes that writing leads to sources that cover the topic better than I could. Often it does not. I typically do some digging before and during the process of writing; but at some point I conclude that it may be helpful to summarize and discuss what I am finding.

In my view, the world would be a better place if more people took time to think about and research their ideas and actions, before plowing ahead. I understand that sometimes this is not possible. But I also see that, often, when that preliminary work goes undone, the result is a mess.

American society tends to value the doer, the person who gets out there and shakes things up and moves things around. There is a place for doers. But I believe America tends to undervalue the thinker, and that America has paid a very heavy price for that immaturity. There is some wisdom in those lines from Shakespeare:

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.

Physicians are not the only ones who should take seriously the adage to do no harm.

There’s a lot to understand, a lot to think about. I am grateful for the time I’ve had to pause and reflect on various experiences. I wish I had more of it. I’ve paid my own price for not being more careerist, not making more of an effort to be rich and impressive. But I think my priorities are good.

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