Work or Play on Labor Day

I asked a friend who used to work 12-16 hours straight on projects what he did for play.

His response: “My work is my play.”

Why I blog?

One response is from Flannery O’Conner: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

The intent is that my words will bring perspective, interpretation and debate to the ever-evolving credit union movement.

I would hope to ensure credit unions are making some meaningful progress towards a more sustainable, healthier, democratic, and economically fair American experience.

This hope is not about individual achievement, but to inspire collective effort by analyzing and reframing credit union events from the context of their unique purpose.

Writing as a Moral Act

David Hein, a Senior Fellow at the George C. Marshall Foundation has written an insightful essay called Writing as a Moral Act.   Some of his thoughts follow:

Writing is a moral act, I often tell my undergraduate students. At first, naturally enough, they are puzzled by this claim. Not only are they prone to compartmentalizing—discuss ethics in a philosophy class, learn writing in an English class; they are unused to thinking ethically about ordinary, apparently nonmoral, activities. For them, morality is limited to (1) rules, such as the honor code’s prohibitions against lying, cheating, and stealing; (2) social-justice issues, such as the sins of the patriarchy and the faults of free enterprise; and (3) their informal sense of peer norms, such as having a friend’s back during a crisis.

To expand their horizons, I prompt them to think about moral aspects of everyday life and to consider the first steps of forming an ethical position and of acting morally. Sound ethical judgment begins not with prescription but with description: characterizing the situation accurately and fairly. Not “what ought we to do?” but “what is going on here?”

Limning the essential elements of a case requires vision sharp and sensitive and comprehensive; and we won’t see clearly if we do not, so far as possible, accomplish a temporary “unselfing of the self,” in Evelyn Underhill’s phrase, attempting to perceive with others’ eyes, according to perspectives different from our own. This entire effort lies at the heart of the ethical life; it is a work of the moral imagination.

Expectations

This approach is also fundamental to the task of essay writing, a practice with which students in higher education are largely familiar. . .

Your paper, I advise them, should be the most intellectually alert and stylistically engaging commentary on your assigned section of the reading which you can produce. . .incorporate evidence from the text in support of the main event, which is the unfolding of your thesis. In other words, maintain command of your paper as a rider keeps control of his or her horse: subordinate summary and quotations to the development of your position.

And some opinion, yes—opinion in the sense of your carefully considered view: argue for the best construal of the material you can manage. When you present your paper, your listeners will be interested not in your isolated, undefended opinion but in your rational analysis and informed judgment; and, along the way, your fellow students will be grateful for whatever elements of wit and elegance you can deploy in your phrasing.

Most of all, keep in mind your audience, which consists of the other students in this course. Anticipate objections to your case. In your paper, respond to this imagined challenger. As you dig into your subject as deeply as you can, have your readers’ likely understanding and potential appreciation in mind.

Indeed, writers cannot achieve their objectives without taking into account their readers’ backgrounds. As Steven Pinker has pointed out in the Wall Street Journal (September 27, 2014), “The form in which thoughts occur to a writer is rarely the same as the form in which they can be absorbed by the reader.”

The writer’s test

Learning to explain complex matters well is one of writing’s supreme challenges. But writing for the reader rather than for himself alone is good for an author’s character; it can relax his relentless self-regard.

So ends my work, or was it play, this Labor Day.

 

 

 

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