Monday, August 17, 2009

Write Your Story

A friend once mentioned that the decline of literacy is showing up in, of all places, the jury box. The mark of a good lawyer used to be measured by the compelling story he/she could weave for the jurors. But now, this fast-paced culture has created jurors who crave bullet points because they are used to communicating in 140-character tweets and texts full of abbreviations. For lawyers facing complicated fact patterns, it would be no easy task to boil down the case to a tweet.

But I, for one, have resisted adopting this new mentality of communicating in miniature sound bytes. I still love reading the full story, not the abridged version.

Maybe that's what made Gilead by Marilynne Robinson such a pleasurable read. It was like sitting beside my grandfather and hearing various stories from his life; the stories that made him the man that he had become.

The premise is that an elderly pastor, who married late in life and has a seven-year-old son, decides to write his life's story for his son:

"For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn't writing prayers, as I was often enough. You feel that you are with someone. I feel I am with you now, whatever that can mean, considering that you're only a little fellow now and when you're a man you might find these letters no interest. Or they might never reach you, for any of a number of reasons. Well, but how deeply I regret any sadness you have suffered and how grateful I am in anticipation of any good you have enjoyed. That is to say, I pray for you. And there's an intimacy in it. That's the truth." (p.19 - Gilead)

I fear that our stories, if not penned or typed out, will be lost if we, as a society, continue to text, tweet, and post status updates on Facebook that give only a momentary glimpse of a task instead of the lessons learned or the journey we've taken. Such momentary updates usually aren't tied together and often aren't capable of being read as a cohesive whole to find out who the person is, which is a loss.

I think that's why blogs have lingered and why memoirs are on the rise: deep down, we all want to leave a legacy. And though it takes time to write, the benefits are well worth it.

If I had not kept journals over the years, I might have forgotten some of the big and small moments in my life. If my ancestors had not penned letters during the Civil War, I would not have the insight that I have into their personal relationships.

There's so much that can be learned from the past, but it has to be captured first. So if you haven't been writing, start now. If you have been writing, keep it up.

3 comments:

Krista, the one rambling.... said...

Oh, I love this. Love that you put the thoughts down about it. How I wish I had letters of my grandparents too!! Great thoughts, friend!!

Momma Bean said...

I will keep on writing for my girls. I truly wish I had writings from my mother to read now that she is gone.

TJ Wilson said...

good stuff, A! love this. inspiring...