When I started this column two years ago, I didn’t know it would last two years. Ever since I was in my early twenties, I had a dream to be a columnist. I would pick up different newspapers, turn to the opinions section, and wonder how these writers could churn out essay after essay every week, and in some cases, even every day.
But this little dream got tossed in the corner for around 20 years. I never bothered applying as a columnist, because I didn’t know what I could write about that I could sustain for more than a month or two.
Then I got older, had more experiences and life stories under my belt, and thought that maybe I should give it a try now. So I looked for a friend who used to be a journalist, and who I tapped before to give seminars to my students who handled the school paper, and found out she was already editor-in-chief. I got in touch with her, showed her some of my stuff, and here we are.
Here I am at the keyboard on Wednesday midnight, trying to beat my Thursday deadline. I had originally entitled the column “Friday the 13th” hoping to write something about superstition and science but I couldn’t really think of anything interesting or original along that line.
So I tried a tactic that has worked for me in the past. When I can’t think of anything to write, I start writing about writing and see where that goes.
Oh look, I have 5 paragraphs already.
Some people don’t know why I bother writing. It’s certainly not for the money. Why do I torture myself so week after week, wracking my brain, squeezing words and ideas out of it? Perhaps it’s my way of organizing the many jumbled thoughts I have. Perhaps it’s my way of reaching out to others and helping along their journey as I too seek my way and fumble along my own path.
Once in a while, I get the occasional comment or the occasional email that encourages me to go on and continue what I’m doing. Here is one such letter I got that surprised me because it comes from someone in his eighties. It is a response to last week’s article, “Do You Believe In God?”:
You have saved my life. It is difficult to live in a world in which everyone considers you as an old idiot who must be humoured, or as a person who has no idea of “the truth” and must be enlightened. Unless one is very sure of oneself (and that itself is a trait which frightens me) one ends up wondering whether they are right and you yourself are wrong. Almost all of my former socialist and communist friends lost their belief either at the time of the Hungarian uprising or the collapse of the Soviet Union and now find it more comfortable to live in an “artistic” world of literature, music and painting. I felt certain that if I was alone then I was likely to be wrong – “they are all out of step except me”. In literature I felt that people like Tolstoy approached my ideas – but then justified them in a very strong belief in Christianity. You are the first person who has shown me that I am not alone.
Einstein’s answer was inspiring – am I foolish in considering it as part of the Jewish liberal tradition. Of course we are supposed to believe in that nasty God you describe, but somehow Einstein and others seem to have benefited from these ideas which they probably encountered in their early life. I’ve got to give that more thought.
Once again – THANK YOU FOR – HOW CAN I PUT IT? showing me that I am not a freak with strange, confused ideas about all of (or most of ) the important issues in life.
Thanks also, John, for showing me that I am not alone and that I am not a freak. Or maybe both of us are freaks. But rest assured, there are many more out there.
One thing for sure, you have also saved my life as much as you say I have saved yours.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.