Plumber or Priest? The Conceit of Being a Writer

During a recent talk at a homeschool convention, ND Wilson attempted to smash the lofty conceit that can surround the writing profession like a fog of cheap incense.

He said that being a writer is like being a plumber. Or a UPS delivery guy delivering a package. A writer delivers what is needed, where it is needed, and there is nothing about the profession that is necessarily more sacred than other vocations. Above all, you are in service to others, and not a tortured soul vomiting out your own self-expression.

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Kung Fu Panda and the Peace of Confession

I dismissed the original Kung Fu Panda when it first came out, but I’ve seen it with new eyes, and partly through the eyes of my children. It’s a delightful movie, not only because of its great animation, top-notch fight choreography, and well-timed humor, but also because it is has unexpected depth. This depth is made manifest the most in the character arc of the cynical kung fu master, Shifu.

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Index Cards – Shadows of Former Glory

I ran out of index cards last week.

Since the new year, I’ve been using them to keep notes. I thought I had plenty, since I had just bought 300 of them from Office Depot, and it said “index cards” on the package. Upon opening them, however, they felt like nothing more than cut up scraps of paper.

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Evolutionary Blind Spots – Played by an Out-of-Tune Banjo

Robert Greene’s book Mastery is…um…masterful. Packed to the brim with anecdotes and insightful information. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But the author’s faith in evolutionary dogma has created curious blind spots that made me almost laugh out loud while reading them.

These blind spots aren’t unique to him, but when you’re in the middle of reading something that rings true at such a perfect pitch that it vibrates your very soul, you tend to stumble a bit when the song switches to being played by an out-of-tune banjo.

He starts off one passage by trying to come up with a definition of reality (emphasis mine):

…let us start our definition with a simple, undeniable fact: some 4 billion years ago, life began on this planet in the shape of simple cells.

You got that? It’s undeniable. That’s quite an impressive faith that Greene has, considering how hard it is to come to a consensus on certain things that happened just 2000 years ago.

He continues a few paragraphs later (again, emphasis mine):

Some archeologists have speculated about a single female ancestor from whom all modern humans have descended.

I’m sure he wrote this with a straight face, and his editor read it nodding his/her head as if it made total sense. This is apparently an opinion that smart, respectful people hold. However, give this ancestor a name (like, I don’t know…Eve, for instance) and suddenly you’re a raving fundamentalist. And not the adorable kind that they still invite to parties.

People holding to evolutionary dogma also can’t stop speaking about purpose and design. They can’t help trying to figure out purpose from supposed randomness.

At another point in the book, he recounts a robotics engineer’s experience while studying the human hand, and how the engineer was perplexed about a certain bump that allows us to grasp objects with more power. How odd that this bump would evolve just for this purpose.

Very odd, indeed.

Another example of this comes from the Eric Weinstein section of Tools of Titans. He talks about a virus that looks like a lunar lander.

It’s a little crazy to think that before Plato ever existed, nature had figured out this complicated 20-sided object. But because it was natural at a mathematical level…nature found the canonical design even though there was no canonical designer…Because it was a God-given form…

He continues:

Or the recent discovery of grasshoppers that use gear mechanisms for jumping. You would think we had invented gears. But, in fact, gears are such a natural idea that natural selection found it long before we did…These forms really don’t have an inventor so much as a discoverer.

Weinstein has to personify nature and natural selection, and even uses the term “God-given form.”

They can’t not reference design as a concept when talking about the natural world. Modern scientists are stuck in the unenviable position of trying to reverse-engineer nature while at the same time pretending nothing was actually engineered.

What does it even mean to live in a universe where everything works together so perfectly that there are “things that are natural at a mathematical level?” That we can extrapolate concepts purely in our mind, and know they will work and make sense in reality? That is a staggering consequence of order. Not randomness.

Some Cultures Need to be Ruined

Daniel Everett is a celebrated linguist who started off as a missionary, but eventually abandoned his Christian faith. His mini-bio in Mastery makes this drift sound noble, because a big reason for his growing doubts was the realization that the Gospel would ruin these cultures in which he had been immersed. In particular, the Pirahã’s concept of truth and how it affected their language.

But the truth is that some cultures should be ruined. They are not all equal. While it is possible to “plunder the Egyptians” as Augustine put it, we should not look with longing and awe at the pots of meat back in Egypt, wishing to gorge ourselves.

That same Pirahã tribe forced alcohol down and infant’s throat to kill it, an infant that Everett and his wife were attempting to nurse back to health. That was their truth.

Some cultures need to be ruined (And if we’re honest, we’ll just look at our own culture and agree with this.) They need to die, so they can be resurrected. The Gospel does not ruin cultures to leave a smoking crater in its wake. It ruins so it can bring about a new birth. So it can create something new.

That doesn’t mean everything should be the same, one big morass of indistinguishable humanity. The glories of the Chinese church, for example, will look very different from the glories of the Western church. Those pilgrims will travel the same path, but they might go a different speed, notice different things along the way, manifest strengths that we had never thought about, sing songs that leave a different taste on the tongue. Their language and culture will be part of the rich tapestry of nations that God brings streaming to the Celestial City.