The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers “I’ve read it already” to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. We have all know women who remembered a novel so dimly that they had to stand for half an hour in the library skimming through it before they were certain they had once read it. But the moment they became certain, they rejected it immediately. It was for them dead, like a burnt-out match, an old railway ticket, or yesterday’s paper; they had already used it. Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty or thirty times during the course of their life.
G.K. Chesterton was an English writer, poet, and theologian around the turn of the Twentieth Century. C.S. Lewis credited Chesterton with moving the acclaimed creator of Narnia toward his own salvation. In many ways, the two share more than the tendency to use initials for first names. Both of their writing paints a stunning perspective of the act of creation—whether in poetry or art. To create anything is to engage in the play of God himself. Chesterton believed that the most mundane stuff of life can and should carry on the sheer delight of God as Creator.
When I grow up, I want to be Robin Hood. I always have, and, I suspect, I always will. The Disney cartoon held my imagination as a child in an iron grasp, and, through most of my childhood, I day-dreamed of archery contests, the clash of steel-on-steel, and rescuing fair damsels. To this day, I still nurse a glowing ember of hope that one day I’ll be able to don a feathered green cap and pick up a bow. My wife, however, isn’t so keen on the career change.
In the weeks that led up to becoming a dad, I received a lot of well-intentioned, but largely unhelpful advice. It seemed like everyone who’d ever been spat up on, changed a blown-out diaper, or tried to comfort a colicky child took wicked delight in describing the horror ahead of my wife and me. It’s like they wanted me to regret having a child. I did my best to remain polite, but inside, I rolled my eyes.
Whether we like it or not, most of life is monotonous. We do the same thing day after day, and we often feel like we have nothing to show for it. The laundry keeps piling up. The traffic on the road is always the same. The coffee pot always burns the brew. The spacebar on the keyboard at work always sticks. Life plods along the same as it always has. Often we end up wondering if there’s any value to what we do. But what if monotony itself has value?
Words matter. The language we use every day shapes the way we see our world. We talk about the strength of our coffee in the morning, or the F-150 that cut us off in traffic. We share our opinions on the most recent college basketball game or describe the Pad Thai we had for dinner.
As a writer, I often thought that I controlled my words more than most people—that everything I tapped out on my keyboard blinked into existence did exactly what I wanted it to. Little did I realize that the nouns and verbs, pronouns and participles I use tell a different story about me.