It takes autumn some time to get here, at least late September and that’s if it really wants to come. I walk the path through the trees under the watch of the late summer sun, among the limbs and branches that soon be cut down to make room for housing and the endless turn of progress. I touch tree trunks and am suddenly aware of that miracle of knowing something older than myself, that existed before I ever was and may, for these are uncertain days, exist in this space a little while after. I could lament much.
I could lament that in our world of social media, we’re all expected to have the attention span of goldfish. I could lament that in our world of sound bites, we’re all expected to have a sense of revulsion toward the novel. I could lament that in days gone by, books and their readers were inseparable entities, communing together, and this was considered a respectable way of life.
But lamenting untrue things is not a very wise way to spend one’s time.
For as much as I would like to think that there was a time when readers were readers and books were books, such a time never existed. This problem of not being true and faithful readers of a text is very old indeed. For there is another Text, of a different sort, that has met its share of readers that could not, despite all their attempts to decipher and know, discern the deeper things.
When the Pharisees criticized Jesus, it was from a standpoint of assuming, rather dangerously, that they had figured out the whole of the Text in its entirety. Everything had been codified, sorted, accounted for. There were no questions. Answers abounded.
But this was foolish, not to mention quite arrogant.
And Jesus, being Jesus, went about undermining this whole arrangement in the most absurdly beautiful way. While there are many places in the gospels that our Lord teaches directly, He mostly teaches with story.
They are not easy stories. They are stories that are disagreed about. They are stories that surprise the audience. They are stories that confront the brutality of the self in all its squalor and failing and, in the same turn of phrase, brings it back to the comfort of home.
When Jesus was asked once why he taught in parables, He quoted from the psalms to explain that it was so those seeing would not see and those hearing would not hear. That is, those already thinking to know, to have seen, to have heard, and thinking that there is nothing else to be gleaned, would walk away from such stories empty-handed, for their hands were never open to receive in the first place.
There have always been readers who have the attention span of goldfish and who are more interested in sound bites.
This is why we need those who listen carefully.
The stories of Jesus have an infinite density, able to be returned to again and again throughout the course of a life, each time discerning something new, seeing something afresh. It is tightly bound wisdom, ready to be pulled at, unraveled, only to find that the spool never stops spinning and the thread never thins.
And this is a beauty unspeakable and a mystery profound.
We who write, who consider words our tools and gifting, participate in a kind of mimesis. Holy Ghost, if we are willing, if we listen, guides our hands to weave faithful stories, poems, songs, and letters that bare in them traces of these older stories, the things we’ve hear, these wise things from the deep heart of our Father.
I was asked recently why I write, because it seems to do very little good.
I smiled and answered that it has something to do with our Lord, who told stories even though it seemed to do very little good.
Somehow, it turned out all right for Him.
I believe that if I am faithful in consecrating this gift unto Him, so shall it turn for me.
So this, then, small as it may be, is the reason to write.
Like autumn here some things come late, but come nonetheless. Some trees are cut down, yet they in their time knew what it was to grow. Everything has its season and there is a harvest to be had, even if we are not the ones to reap.
Write on, dear friend, there is a purpose, a time, a reason, a good in this too.
Preston Yancey is a senior at Baylor University earning his degree in Great Texts of the Western Tradition with a focus in medieval literatureand theology. He also ended up with a minor in Political Science specialized in East Asian foreign and domestic relations, which he contends happened by accident. He makes his home where he can, being found often enough either in an airport or in a car on the way to the next destination, from Waco to Chicago to London to Beijing and beyond. He runs on a diet of caffeine and God's grace. Someone once called him a hipster, which he tweeted. He keeps his own blog at SeePrestonBlog.