Stumbled Upon

The best description yet for why I am keeping this blog.

Jacobs is talking here about essays as a way of representing "the mind -- following in its habitual way its branching pathways of memory and reflection -- discovering something deeply true that the mind's owner would just as soon not know":
An old phrase holds that to be a Christian is to be homo viator: the human being as wayfarer, as pilgrim. Wayfarers know in a general sense where we are headed: to the City of God, what John Bunyan, that great chronicler of pilgrimage, called the Celestial City -- but we aren't altogether certain of the way. We can get lost for a time, or lose our focus and nap for too long on a soft patch of grass at the side of the road, or dally a few days at Vanity Fair. We can even become discouraged -- but we don't, ultimately and finally, give up. And we don't think we have arrived. To presume that we have made it to our destination and to despair of arriving are both, as Jürgen Moltmann has wisely said, ways of "canceling the wayfaring character of hope."

Hope comes from knowing that there is a way -- and that we didn't make it. This is why the road's unexpected turnings need not alarm us; this is why it's possible even to enjoy the unpredictable, whether it comes from without or within. That is, there can be pleasure and instruction in the books we stumble across, in the serendipitous skipping from link to link across the Web -- and even in our own mental vagaries, the stumbling and skipping through our neural webs.

Of course, what is instructive is not always pleasurable, and what is pleasurable is not always instructive. That's life. So [here Jacobs is talking about his own essays, but to my mind the description fits many of my posts, too], just as George Bernard Shaw wrote what he called Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, these are Essays Pleasant and Unpleasant. Some are celebratory, some are critical; most partake of both attitudes. You never know what kinds of things will turn up along the way.

-- Alan Jacobs, Wayfaring: Essays Pleasant and Unpleasant (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2010), p. x, xiii.


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