Pen Seeking Understanding

Pen Seeking Understanding April 29, 2018

Scot McKnight wrote eloquently about the place of writing in the life of an academic:

[W]riting can’t be done on the side because, as James Vanoosting says it, “Writing is not pedagogy but an epistemology” (160).

In other words, writing is a lifestyle, a way of life, a way of being, a modus operandi, a way of breathing and eating and drinking. Better yet, writing is a way of learning, a way of coming to know what someone wants to know, a way of discovering.

Writing is not something to do when everything else is cleared off the desk; no, it is something that makes order of the desk. I don’t get up wondering what I will write about, but I write about what I’m wondering. (That’s almost Chestertonian.) In other words, as Augustine spoke of “faith seeking understanding,” so writing is a pen seeking understanding.

Read more on his blog Jesus Creed.

I can definitely relate to this sentiment. You probably knew that already, not just from the fact that I shared the quotation on my blog, but more than that, from the very activity of blogging that I engage in. This is where I process, and how I process.

And of course, for some of the deepest aspects of my beliefs, convictions, and worldview, the big question is not whether I can speak it but whether I can sing it. Nevertheless, even there, the challenge is the lyrics, and those are things that I’ve shared here on this blog as well.

It has been said that writing transformed human minds and human culture in much the fundamental way that interactive portable screens now promise to. And yet for those of us who write in order to process, this new technology has made it possible to write – and read – on the go in a manner beyond what the small notebook, pen, and/or paperback of yesteryear facilitated.

I’m interested to see where technology takes us. But for now, I remain one of those people for whom putting words in writing – via pen, keyboard, or touchscreen – remains fundamentally important. For how many of you is the same true?


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  • John MacDonald

    As an educator, my writing always came in the form of lesson plans and units. My goal was not just to express my educational Philosophy, but just as much to inspire my students on their own paths, and get them to retrace their paths and rethink the assumptions they originally started off their journeys with.

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    Writing is impossible because, in order to write a blog, you have to be able to write half that blog, and then you have to be able to write half of that half, and then half of that again, and so on. You’ll never get to the end.

    • This actually sounds like a perfect description of writer’s block, and not just a bit of philosophical humor! 🙂