Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Strawberry, and (Blogger-like) Gaseousness

[another excerpt from Brennan Manning]:

[Too often I use] the gaseous language of the impostors who hide in evasions, equivocations, and obfuscations.

Several years ago, in the heyday of my impostor, I wrote a book review for a fellow impostor's first published work. I defended his prose style saying, "His floridities are merely orotundity. Nevertheless, his unremitting gaseousness has an organic fluidity and turgescence difficult to duplicate and oddly purgative for the reader." Whew.

I began a lecture on the eleventh step of the AA program with a story about a man in crisis who notices and eats a strawberry. I was emphasizing his ability to live in the present moment. Then I launched into what I considered to be a dazzling explanation of the step, an interpretation filled with profound ontological, theological, and spiritual insights.

Later, a woman approached the podium and said to me, "I loved your story about the strawberry." We agreed that one humble strawberry had more power than my pompous inanities.

The impostor's vocabulary abounds in puffy, colorless, and self-important words. Is it mere coincidence that the gospel lacks self-conscious, empty language? The Gospels contain no trace of junk words, jargon, or meaningful nonsense at all. Unharnessed and untamed, the impostor often sounds like a cross between William Faulkner and the Marx Brothers. His unctuous pronouncements and pontifications are a profusion of half-truths. Because he is master of disguise, he can easily slip into feigned humility, the attentive listener, the witty raconteur, the intellectual heavy, or the urbane inhabitant of the global village. The false self is skilled at the controlled openness that scrupulously avoids any significant self-disclosure.

Walker Percy captures this evasiveness in a chilling scene from his novel The Second Coming: "She spoke with the quietness of people after a storm which had drowned out their voices. What struck him was not sadness or remorse or pity but the wonder of it. How can it be? How can it happen that one day you are young, you marry, and then another day you come to yourself and your life has passed like a dream? They looked at each other curiously and wondered how they could have missed each other, lived in the same house all these years and passed in the hall like ghosts."

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