I was having lunch with my friend Andy last week, and the conversation turned to blogging. Andy’s blog was one of the first blogs that I read, but his postings are not as frequent these days. And I always intend to blog much more than I do, but I find myself not willing to post something, especially of a philosophical / theological nature, until I have sorted out the argument in my own mind and am able to see – to the best of my ability from where I stand at the moment of writing it – the positives and negatives of my argument. Later that day, I came across a Wendell Berry quote that David Dark posted on his facebook page that succinctly distills the conversation Andy and I had. (I tracked down the source of the quote to this interview in the Sun Magazine, Digging In.)
“I did make up my mind at some time that instead of trying to serve my purposes by rhetorical artifice or personal attacks, I would try to make as much sense as I could. If your cause doesn’t make sense, why defend it? Writing is a test of sense. It’s an exposure of your ideas to your own scrutiny, and then to the scrutiny of other people.”
I am well aware that you cannot give your thoughts to someone who will not take them, and I am prepared for that. I would like to be agreed with, of course, but the rules of publication require me to be willing also to be disagreed with, to be ignored, and even to be disliked. Those who are moved by this book to disagreement or dislike will take discomfort, I hope, from hearing that some of my readers treat me kindly.
Kindness from readers is something that no essayist (and no writer of any other kind) has a right to expect. The kindness I have received from readers I count as the only profit from my work that is entirely net. I am always grateful for it and often am deeply moved by it.
But kindness is not—is never—the same as complete agreement. An essayist not only has no right to expect complete agreement but has a certain responsibility to ward it off. If you tell me, dear reader, that you agree with me completely, then I must suspect one or both of us of dishonesty. I must reserve the right, after all, to disagree with myself.
But however much I may change my mind, I will never agree with those saleswomen and salesmen who suggest that if I will only do as they say, all will be fine. All, dear reader, is not going to be fine. Even if we all agreed with all the saints and prophets, all would not be fine. For we would still be mortal, partial, suffering poor creatures, not very intelligent and never the authors of our best hope.