Towards truth and freedom

Ursula K Le Guin wrote the following advice to aspiring writers:

“Socrates said, ‘The misuse of language induces evil in the soul.’ He wasn’t talking about grammar. To misuse language is to use it the way politicians and advertisers do, for profit, without taking responsibility for what the words mean. Language used as a means to get power or make money goes wrong: it lies. Language used as an end in itself, to sing a poem or tell a story, goes right, goes towards the truth.
         A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”

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Blind Willie Johnson

I keep returning to Aaron Sorkin’s writing for The West Wing.

“Voyager, in case it’s ever encountered by extraterrestrials, is carrying photos of life on Earth, greetings in 55 languages, and a collection of music, from Gregorian chants to Chuck Berry, including ‘Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground’ by ’20s bluesman Blind Willie Johnson, whose stepmother blinded him at seven by throwing lye in his eyes, after his father beat her for being with another man. He died penniless of pneumonia after sleeping bundled in wet newspapers in the ruins of his house that burned down, but his music just left the Solar System.”

This is Sorkin at his best. Craftsmanship I aspire to reach. Assonance (“from chants to Chuck”, “beat her for being”, “lye in his eyes”). In this scene Josh he does for the purpose of securing more funding for NASA.

“His music just left the solar system.” Wow.

If you’re vaugely familiar with 1970s space probe Voyager, I think this little soliloquy will stir your heart:

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Lightspeed Engineering hosts essays, notes, and scribbles on design, philosophy, and science written by Pelle Beckman. See the Info page for details. I'm occasionally on Mastodon