I spent the day reading for one class. One single upcoming class. I read sections of Trigg and Childs, a good chunk of Justin Martyr’s Dialogue–for more hours than I thought I’d have to–Diognetus and Melito, had a meeting, had a class, then came home and still had two articles to go. I spend all my days reading now anyways, or clambering around in the library getting stuff to read, so reading is not a problem. But after what I did today I found I was weighed down. I am old; can it be I no longer can do the work?
I am reading The Fellowship and have found it good (brilliant, actually, and will review), so I did a bit of that before returning to my articles. I didn’t at the time notice how well I did on it: how quickly I went, how absorbed I was following every detail. Then I had to return to my work. Was it the lack of coffee? I was reluctant, yea, weary. I proceeded to read the first article: turgid, full of clichés, and the truth is I did not get most of it. It was chunks of raw data that perfectly followed the formatting guidelines, that is all. I thought my academic career is spent and done. I am deluding myself going back to school. I’m superannuated.
Then, then! I got to Chadwick, the last.
Oh my Chadwick! Smooth, witty, well-written. One of the things he said right at the start was that Justin was a disorganized writer, and he made fun of exactly the kind of scholarly article I read before his. He showed me the problem: I had spent the day reading bad writing, and it was more laborious than thrice–or more–as much reading of well-written works. With Chadwick I was able to read again with zest.
Apostolic Fathers: a lot of bad writing there, and I still have to do that bore Irenaeus. On the positive side, here is one of the curious things that can happen; you read the Apostolic Fathers, then go back to the Apostle Paul and you are amazed at Paul’s razor-sharp brain. Or Luke’s, for that matter. And, like the Apostolic Fathers of old, journal articles and academic books do not often display more than disposable literary quality. How wearing bad writing can be! It is an incentive to make sure I present work as little substandard as is possible for me.
Resolved: to work at what I write in such a way that Katrina can read and understand what I’m doing in every paper; to write like highways, not dirt paths, to put the effort into clarity so that things are lucid, and never to make the reader feel he is swimming through vomit to reach the far side of my essay.