By Craig Carter, Guest
Done well, the written word has rhythm and music. For instance, because he knew more people would read his speeches than hear them, Abraham Lincoln purposely wrote speeches to be read. His incredible grasp of literary music and rhythm is found in the at once tragic and hopeful tune of his Second Inaugural, “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of the other men’s faces, but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.” Spoken, Lincoln’s speeches are powerful, but when read, Lincoln’s speeches rival Mozart’s concertos and Beethoven’s sonatas.
The written word also perpetuates undeniable truth. There’s Jesus: “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” And Buddha: “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” Hence, the written word isn’t just noble, it’s absolutely necessary.
That’s why I always try to remind myself of the ponderously broad shoulders on which I stand when I write. I love to make readers smile at least, but I depend on inspiration from the likes of Dorothy Parker. “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.” And as a political commentator, I depend heavily on the influences of Will Rogers, “I am just like a politician – the less I know about anything, the more I can say, “ And Mark Twain: “The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter. They are an entire banquet.”
World renowned comedian and actor Groucho Marx often said he was most proud that his letters were in the Library of Congress. War hero, Congressman, Senator and President John Kennedy often spoke of how proud he was to win the Pulitzer Prize for “Profiles in Courage.” And though my paltry talent pales in comparison, after almost 15 years of writing my column, I still get giddy when I see my words in published print.
I recently experienced the true magic of this craft while writing a column about how proud I was to exchange e- mails with a physicist at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. In my first draft, I jokingly commented it was like Albert Einstein chowin’ vittles and discussin’ the energy/mass equation with the Clampetts. I liked the line, but just as I was about to submit the column, something (my muse, I suspect, who, interestingly enough, bears a remarkable resemblance to Selma Hayek,) inspired me to delete it and write it was like Stephen Hawking discussing the ever expanding universe with Honey Boo-Boo. When I read the original line to my wife at first draft, she giggled. When I read the edited line upon publication, she gasped, and said, “That’s perfect.”
Could anything in the world be so wonderful?