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Author-itative

author-itative
Forged self-portrait of
Albrecht Dürer.
" … never muttered another word thereafter."

We've long known that giving a guitar to a twelve year old dramatically increases the risk that said twelve year old will start crafting verse and become, at least in their own mind, uncommonly wise, and then start dispensing advice and spouting "folk wisdom." We understand less well a similar effect resulting from teaching someone to write. The risks might be tiny, but nonetheless exist, that the budding writer might discover urges to become an author. If so, it seems a short stroll down a fairly well-trod path before said writer comes to take them self seriously, perhaps all-too seriously, and steps over that line where ever after they think of themselves as authorities and so come to speak almost exclusively in the curious dialect favored by the Author-itative. They become bores and/or whores, assuming any of scores of similarly degrading roles in society. Extreme cases might be seen guest spotting on CNN, MSNBC, or, shudder, Fox. They might even sell a lot of books.

I have personally seen how this gift of writing can evolve into the curse of Author-itative prose.
I was once asked to headline a luncheon at the prestigious London Economic Club, a gathering in The City of, as near as I could tell, professionals who would rather drink their lunch than practice their profession. I was warmly received, though I believe, in retrospect, that I essentially spouted gibberish. I had written a book, published by an actual publisher, and so simply must have known what I was getting on about. That book, a blessing as well as a curse, made more of a difference than I'd intended it to make. In the introduction, I clearly declared that reading the book would very likely not enable any reader to manage their projects better. How do you suppose many readers reacted to that pronouncement? They began to behave as if they could manage projects better because they'd bought the book, without even reading it. Further, they took to mistaking me for an expert in the field. Even worse, I took to mistaking myself for an expert, too.

I had written that book in the wee hours of many mornings for the purpose of explaining to The Muse, whom I had not yet taken to calling The Muse, what I did for a living. I in no way intended it to represent any Author-itative anything, not even the last word in my own personal opinion. But, this world being what it most certainly is, purpose and intention became tangled in their underpants. I thought that the book offered potentially useful perspectives even if it might have fallen well short of definitively Author-itative advice, but we do not as a general rule tend to follow mere good ideas or interesting perspectives. We want The Best. It's a short stumble from published work into presumed author, when I was barely even a writer then.

We are bred, it seems, to become The Best at something. Father's Day might manifest a World's Greatest Dad mug, though the day before and the one after might not see anything particularly masterful in dad's performance. We're disinterested in the merely adequate and prefer to think of ourselves as rather above most averages. We read exclusively the finest authors and remain influenced by only the very greatest minds. We find our books sometimes shockingly good, as if certainly written by genius, but look who's judging genius, my friend. Could it not be the same old familiar recipient of the World's Greatest Dad mug, the one that echos the prior year's tee shirt? An obvious authority on dading? Really. Genius!

I think it particularly important, perhaps essential, that as an author, I steadfastly refuse to take myself very seriously, because taking one's self seriously carries onerous consequences. It's easy and pretentious to tumble into the Author-itative voice, to imagine one's self learned rather than inquiring, to draw conclusions before really asking the hardest questions. (The hardest questions could never be asked.) Properly pursued, few should ever manage to escape the gravitational pull of inquiry and fall into the vast void where Author-itative exists. It's a vacuous place, mostly space and dark matter. We're still learning and hardly ready to publish the last word on anything, having published The Last Word on something being the primary delimiter of the truly Author-itative. Would that the Author-itative never muttered another word thereafter.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved







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