Why it is good to write: nearly ninety-five theses

Here are some reasons for why it is good to write things down. I’m not going to waste space arguing for any of them in particular, instead I’ll just type away, aim for quantity and not quality, and persuade you through sheer weight of numbers that writing (and this blog in particular) is a worthy enterprise. Is this a listicle? Yes, I suppose it is. But in that case, so were Martin Luther’s original 95 theses…

Martin Luther knew how to drive a point home

Here we go then:

  1. Writing is a way of capturing thoughts, impressions, stories, events and ideas for their circulation and preservation. Generally, this is a good thing.
  2. There is a dark side to writing. It has been used to disperse propaganda, toxic ideologies and general ‘bad stuff’. It is easily turned from a tool into a weapon. However removing our ability to write would be like giving humanity a pre-frontal lobotomy; it would certainly tone us right down, but it would also diminish us. Some inventions have been more trouble than they’re worth, but writing does not belong in that category.
  3. Imagine a world without any writing in it. All other factors being equal, is our world not a better one?
  4. Without writing we would be far worse at remembering past philosophical,
  5. religious,
  6. scientific,
  7. and literary achievements.
  8. We would also have a much poorer record of history. Things that are written down stay the same.
  9. The weaponsiation of words can serve good reasons. If you’re on the ‘right’ side of a disagreement (without going into what exactly ‘right’ means), your first recourse will probably be to a written attack on your enemy’s position (hopefully not an ad hominem attack). This means that debates can be had over long distances and long periods of time, allowing many more people to participate.
  10. Fighting with words can also be an alternative to fighting with real weapons. Fighting is never a good thing, but given that it happens from time to time we should be thankful for its expression in the notably nonviolent medium of writing.
  11. Writing is vulnerable to corruption from the unsavoury aspects of human nature. On some forums, it is just a way for someone to rabidly attack an enemy from behind a wall of detachment or anonymity. It allows us to lash out at others from places of strength, and to troll and pick fights with people we don’t like. But so long as this and all the other dark sides of writing can be sidelined, then it is something worth having.
  12. More personally, writing is way of artistically expressing yourself. I know people who have trouble making themselves understood in conversation, but become highly eloquent in writing.
  13. Writing allows people to express themselves through poetry,
  14. prose,
  15. song lyrics,
  16. and calligraphy (at least, I’m assuming that’s what it’s for!)
  17. Admittedly, I’ve so far been using the notion of ‘writing’ in a rather broad sense. But I will now home in on the benefits I hope to bestow and to gain in writing this blog. Saying that reading this blog will bestow benefits upon you may sound suspiciously snake-oily… but you never know! I’ve studied and/or happen to know a certain amount on areas such as biology,
  18. philosophy,
  19. history,
  20. theology,
  21. current affairs,
  22. military strategy,
  23. Age of Empires II,
  24. baroque music,
  25. classical music,
  26. classic works of literature,
  27. Youtube,
  28. and running.
  29. I’ve also had some great experiences in China as a kid,
  30. and in New Zealand as a teenager and university student.
  31. At this point you might be dazzled at my all-encompassing brilliance, might be bored, or might think I’m a little up myself. Well neither of the first two responses are quite appropriate, I was just introducing myself for your benefit, to give you an idea of what my writing will be like.
  32. The last response is unwarranted, cynical, and a major disincentive to ever attempting writing in the first place. Let me assure you that I’m my own worst critic, and that if I ever start harping on about amazing me in a self-indulgent manner, then I’ll be the first to notice, and you certainly won’t get to see what I’ve written. So provided you can trust me to do my job, then we should get along just fine.
  33. So as the writer here, what benefits do I hope to see? Well, I’m a bit of an idealist and a dreamer. At the same time, I am scientifically trained and see no good in a theory or an idea if it lacks utility or value. In other words, in order for me to be excited about an idea, I have to find it worthwhile in some way. So I enjoy running (idea), not only because it’s fun, but because I know it’s good for me (value). Computer games and board games are also fun (arguably more so than running), but I don’t play them very often because I perceive them to be less worthwhile in the long term, and this reduces my enjoyment of them. Here I’m using ‘fun’ to refer to short-term pleasure and ‘enjoyment’ to refer to the long-term satisfaction that comes from spending time productively. Another example is loving other people as you love yourself, sometimes termed ‘the Golden Rule’ (value). The most convincing explanation (idea) that I’ve heard for this value is the one given by Jesus, that we ought to do it as an expression of our love for God, whom we love because He loved us first. That’s a good one to talk about another time.
  34. While idealistic, I am also pragmatically scientific in that I acknowledge the risks, problems and doubts inherent in any viewpoint and strive to find the best explanatory ideas and theories using the resources available to me. But I also dogmatically adhere to a set of values that I feel simply must be true, no matter what. Rational explanations try to reduce reality down to simple and manageable tidiness, but senses of value – what is important in the world – are seated somewhere else, and no purely rational attempt to explain them is satisfying. This is a deep, deep divide in our consciousness (reason versus intuition, science versus faith, essence versus existence) and I’ve been a bit fast and loose with my terminology here. But it should be enough to get the message across. Are you intrigued? Well, that’s some of what I’ll be trying to nut out on this blog here.
  35. As an aside, I won’t just be writing about this deep stuff. I love the writing of G. K. Chesterton, who was able to be disarmingly provocative with the most innocuous of topics, such as his love of cheese and the pleasure of lying in bed.
  36. Writing in general, and blogging in particular, is a lot of work. I’ve spent over four hours on this so far, think of all the computer games I could have played in that time! Success is also a tricky thing to measure, but I guess I’ll know it when (or if…) I see it. But when you think about it, all the much lauded ‘important things’ in life, like relationships, careers, families, enriching experiences come from a similar formula of trying hard with no guarantee of success. Nothing tried, nothing gained. So if I’m too scared to try writing, how will I fare in other areas? Strangely enough, writing could be good practice for the tougher realm of real life.
  37. Psalm 116:10 reads “I trusted in the Lord when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted'”. Speaking out in the hope that your words are heard by someone, somewhere, is a wonderful thing to do. Hope is justified by faith, and faith is justified by… well that’s a bit harder, but it’s got to be a certain mixture of personal experience and revelation. I’m writing in the hope that my words will be doing something worthwhile, and not just crunching into a wall.
  38. As Gimli from the Lord of the Rings would say (in the Peter Jackson movies), there may well be a small chance of success. But had he been real and not just a fictional character, Gimli would have understood that a probable outcome is a world away from a determined outcome. What does it mean for an outcome to be determined, anyway? There is no way to demonstrate that something must necessarily happen in the future (see ‘problem of induction‘). If you regularly buy Lotto tickets you probably stand to lose money, but there is a such a thing as striking it rich. To win, you’ve got to be in. So indeed, what are we waiting for? I’ve carefully placed my bets (there’s got to be some skin in the game), and I’m going to have a proper go at this blog.

Hmm, it looks like I didn’t quite make it as far as 95. It’s a bit rambly, not all of my points were really proper theses, some of them were terribly contrived, and I’ve been pretty heavy with the personal touch. Now if you think about it, this unpolished and misshapen product is actually a practical demonstration of me not worrying too much about what people think (what do they know anyway), and just getting on with the business. So there you have it, I pass the confidence test for writing. But I’m still waiting for the results of my aptitude test.


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