Can you dialog with a ghost?
A mentor taught me that if Socrates could talk to Thrasymachus, Meno, and Gorgias, smart men disposed to dislike him, then I should be willing to dialog with anyone. This was a hard lesson, but I tried to learn it. This much is certain: you have to be there to dialog and there is preciously little learning without dialog.
As Hamlet discovered, a ghost might talk, complain, demand revenge, but he never dialogs, because a ghost is not really all there. He is between. This brings me to a trouble with some media personalities. We do not read them, see their research, know the books they are reading, but get the fruit of researchers, assistants, and ghost writers.
The celebrity is there, but he is silent.
We are getting teaching, but attached to the wrong name. We get a performance by one person on television based on the reading of someone else. The real student of Scripture, culture, or ideas wants the person who read the book who “ghosted” the real material. Instead, we get a talking head, a picture, a brand peddled to us by the same sort of people who sold stuff in the Temple.
I suppose people wanted the stuff and there was money to be made. I get it.
They tell me that Mark Driscoll is joining our merry band of bloggers, columnists, academics, and opiners. If one teaches Socratically, then there is a thrill in hoping that at long last you can interact on certain topics that matter and on which Mr. Driscoll has views, articulate views. We shall get to ask earnest questions and he will tell us what he thinks without the drive-by media interfering.
After all, now he is in our neighborhood, we are colleagues and Patheos is all about conversation, yet the news may not be so good. When Thrasymachus came to Athens, Socrates was nervous about the challenge, but at least he got Thrasymachus in full beast mode. Patheos is a small little Athens, more Georgia than Greece mayhaps, but we talk. Our neighbor Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton agreed to engage Hunter Baker on my site about Christian America. Most of us have argued, agreed, or read each other for a long time.
We know each other, because we are not here for the big money, but the conversation amongst all the ideas at Patheos. Some of us take comments. I do not, because I think the conversation is best when it is between the writers. I engage my readers and critics (take a look!) on Twitter and Facebook. Others go further to engage readers directly on the site.
Both ideas seem sound, but in both cases the people writing, the ideas being expressed, are those of the people putting their name on the blog or column.
Are you writing your stuff? Are these your ideas? Do you do your own research? Have you read the books you cite? Sadly, I must ask, because I have run into (via social media) former “ghosts” in your media machine. Are you moving in to talk with us or are you sending us the left overs, ghosts of others’ ideas and work?
Imagine reading a book and discovering someone else wrote it. You had the wrong hero!
Imagine hearing an idea and discovering it came from someone else’s hard work. You admired the wrong mind!
Surely, you would not do this in our little neighborhood when so little is required but authenticity. We think, therefore we write.
I promise you this: every word here is my own. My wife and a friend will correct the typographical errors caused by my vision and defects in my grammar, but the words and ideas are all mine. They add nothing. Will you assure us of the same? Are we meeting you? Arguing with you? Or are we talking to a twenty-something working in a gnosis mine?
It seems odd to me that the ghost writer is the ghost in the relationship between the celebrity and the ideas. In fact, when we read the research of this careful scribe and listen to his ideas through the sophist, then we at least hear something of him. Of the talking head, we learn nothing except (perhaps) some anecdotes (when those are not manufactured) and that he presents well.
Thrasymachus came and talked to Socrates so even such a bully-boy as Thrasymachus could be forced to blush in shame at his arguments and his feral nature once Socrates exposed him. I know this for good reason . . . Dialog has often caused me to change my mind, find proper shame, and follow the argument wherever it led me. We are, I think, Thrasymachus when we come to argument, full of vim, zeal, and certainty. None of us are really Socrates, he is the ideal, the rules of the argument, the persistence of Wisdom in calling out to us . . . Fools.
But what if we could not bother to come? What if we were too busy to talk to Socrates? What if we never took the risk of sharing our own knowledge (poor as it might be) and our own ideas and instead hired others? What if Thrasymachus had sent a ghost? He would not have become the civilized man we see in Republic V. He would have remained feral and lost.
God help us.
We have to be here to dialog. Are you here Pastor Mark? If not, who is producing the research and writing your stuff? We would just as soon talk to him. If you are here, what are your views on the ethics of ghost writing? What is plagiarism? When does a celebrity using another person’s ideas just become a talking head?
Let’s talk. I want to learn from you what you think. Really. Don’t be a ghost.