I wrote a few days ago about my disappointing experience in booking a hotel room through an organization that was supposed to award me certain privileges. Wasted money, that. A sympathetic manager bailed me out of a predicament that might have cost an additional $130. Last night I thought about sending her a copy of my book, Climbing Backward Out of Caves: A Case for Religious Faith Based on Common Sense. I wanted to give her some tangible token of appreciation. A nice idea, right? Yet once I got to reading the first few pages…
I wouldn’t have reacted this way a year ago, or maybe even six months ago. What struck me last night, though, was the electric thought, “This isn’t the easiest read in the world. It demands concentration, and commitment to the subject. You can’t just send this off to a virtual stranger and have it perceived as a gesture of gratitude. She’s more likely to think that you’re saying something like, ‘You see? I’m a professor, and a damned profound one! I’ve written this book… its ideas are important, and its style shows that I’m a formidable intellectual. Good thing you gave me a break on my bill. You weren’t just dealing with some stupid hayseed, you know. In case you thought otherwise… well, just look at this book!'”
Yuk! What a horrible impression that would leave! And as I say, I wouldn’t have thought twice about sending the thing a year ago. What has changed in me?
I guess I’m starting to become very aware (perhaps neurotically aware, imagining ghosts in thin air) of a “war on thinking”. People don’t read much any more. There’s almost a stigma attached to writing seriously about serious ideas, as opposed to tweeting out one-liners… isn’t there? If you use big words, you’re a fraud. If you try to reason out complex issues, you’re a poser. Especially before someone who scarcely knows you, you would come off looking really weird.
I didn’t sleep much after re-depositing the padded envelope that I’d taken a half-hour to locate back on a closet’s top shelf. I decided not to send anything. I don’t want to run the risk of seeming to be something I detest. When I write, it’s like a conversation: I’m looking for people to talk to–to listen and answer and be answered. But I have the feeling, fair or not, that the options for conversation are not very generous any more. Unless they put on some kind of fireworks display, books must be written for your narrow, narrow circle… and that’s about it.