“All I can hope to do this evening is speculate with you and have you speculate with me. I’m going to ask you some questions, then have you ask me some questions, then we’ll see what happens.” James Baldwin
I heard those words of Baldwin’s in a speech he gave about the moral responsibility of a writer. I hit the pause button, dialed things back, and listened to them all over again. Then I did it again and wrote the words down.
I think they sum up the best and most a writer can hope to do. I think they sum up the best and most anyone can hope to do if they hope to be serious about doing something.
We can observe. We can speculate about what we’ve observed. We can share our speculations with others and listen to their speculations as well. We can ask questions. We can allow ourselves to be questioned. We can measure and test and tinker and attempt to find out how accurate and valid our speculations really were. We can see what happens.
And I think that’s the best and the most I can hope to do here. Observe. Speculate. Ask questions. Measure. Test, Tinker. I think that’s what the work of a writer is. I think, to a very large extent, that’s what everyone’s work is. The question each day is whether or not we will decide to do the work.
That is what I’m trying to do.
The only thing I have left to decide is what I intend to write about and this is what I’ve come up with.
I intend to ask two questions:
1) What does it mean to be human, and
2) how can we do a better job of it?
Now, this is going to shock you, so brace yourself.
I don’t have the answers.
All I really have are these two questions and the series of questions they will inevitably lead to if I try to treat them seriously. And those questions will lead to even more.
Can we ever find definitive answers? (Yes, I know. I just asked another question.) I don’t know the answer to that, but here is what I do know. We can observe, speculate, ask each other questions, measure, test, and tinker.
Then let’s see what happens.