Midwifery (1/26/11)

If a writer focuses diligently upon themes and questions that are of essential concern to thinking human beings—and he writes with a modicum of deftness and clarity—his works will be assured of finding an appreciative reading audience. Such works—and we have plenty of examples of them—perform the refreshing service of scraping the non-essential questions and peripheral themes right off our plates, leaving only the lightly seasoned meat and potatoes. Such thinkers and writers about fundamental human questions are attractive to readers who are interested primarily in nutrition for their minds—‘whole food’ for thought—and not chiefly in exotic fruits, over-rich sauces, and sugar-filled desserts.

Rather than coming away from such books feeling stuffed, the grateful reader feels lighter, leaner, and more vitalized than before he or she sat down to read. This is because good, essential questions—well formulated and carefully followed—do not add bulk and excess fat to the reader’s mind but, in vigorously exercising it, help to burn off psychic lipids and to release accumulated mental toxins. It is not principally for answers, then, that readers come to such writings, but for those clear and caustic questions which, like a strong acid, bore right through the layers of torpor and inertia into the molten cores of our encrusted minds. Once these penetrating questions have done their work, our own minds magically prove capable of providing answers on their own. The most we writers and thinkers can—and should—hope for is that our writings may prompt and encourage readers to follow, not us, but their own enkindled fires and guiding lights.

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