From the eyes of my youth, I’m sure the things I currently find delight in, are rather bizarre. Just this morning I rushed to get up, forced myself to eat something, did my morning prayers in relative haste, all so that I could plunge a few more pages into They Say, I Say by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. The sole purpose of this book? To elucidate academic writing. If you had told eighteen year old Adam that this was his future, he probably would have wept in despair.
I’ll never forget the moment when I was browsing the comments on a religious video and I saw a response that forever changed my outlook on life. As is currently customary, there was large amounts of raging atheistic comments denouncing God, and Christian beliefs and ideals in general, but suddenly rising up from the mire was a ray of wisdom. The sun found a breach in the clouds, and the light poured forth.
The content of the response is not what captured my attention, however, though it was important. I saw a man who so clearly, intelligently, and respectfully expressed himself. He didn’t become mad, childish, or unwieldly, just boldly pointed out his attacker’s error. Not only was he calm, but he was convincing. I immediately thought to myself, “I want that!” I suddenly realised a deep hunger that had been fermenting in my heart for ages: the need to express myself, to convincingly support a cause, to stand in defiance of illogical reasoning in a meaningful and profound way.
There is an indescribable joy when one reads an essay, article, book, or comment that takes one’s own views or unknown longings, hopelessly muddled within the brain, and displays those thoughts with such clarity and depth that the words just pour out, “I couldn’t have done it better myself…” It is no longer the best Slayer album, the greatest guitar and amp combo, or the most raving party life I chase after, but this very experience of discovering an idea which makes the world slow and become clear, that causes the clouds to part and rays of light to shine down as if to say, “We know!”
As I grow as a writer my outlook on what writing is, is slowly morphing. The authors of They Say, I Say make a profound point in relation to writing when they state that “writing well does not mean piling up uncontroversial truths in a vacuum; it means engaging others in a dialogue or debate.” I hunger that all those around me will take pride in their ability to communicate themselves. Often times I come on too strong in conversation, and the other person backs down, but this is the last thing I want. When I engage in conversation, or express myself with passion, it’s because I’m ramping up for a good discussion. Without dialogue ideas exist in a dark vacuum and can be completely flawed, but no one will ever know. Without dialogue egocentrism is easy, and growth difficult.
Current trends are emphasizing the need for education and expression more and more. I whole heartedly support these trends; however, I see one flaw. More guidance is needed about how to write respectfully, about how to explain one’s ideas in a way that encourages discussion, not slams the door shut with violence and slander. It is a tragedy that some people with great ideas will never be heard, because they can’t get over these childish methods of expression. Writing is a double edged sword. It has almost infinite power to change minds and hearts for the better, if wielded correctly, but it can also draw us into a pit of domination and bullying.
I was your typical “I hate essays” student for most of my life. I specifically remember finishing Grade 12 English and thinking, “I’m FREE! I’ll never have to write another essay EVER again!” While many people my age stay up until two in the morning getting the latest on Facebook, or blasting away just a few more aliens, often, I’m up late writing just a couple more thoughts on whatever topic has stricken my heart. Somewhere in my life the mist cleared away, and a ray of light shone through. I am now living and breathing proof, that people can change.