There are, of course, two relevant considerations in giving a lecture: the ideas and the form. Each has its own difficulties, and while they are inextricably linked, the form seems to pose the greatest challenge to me. I may be able to think of interesting ideas, but ordering them is an enormous challenge for me.
It’s the same in writing, of course. Ideas and content. The word and the flesh. We name those compositions prosaic that let the word linger with an anemic form, that embody the ideas in stunted and sickly flesh.
Bullet points. Itemized lists. Subheadings.
It’s all ordered, of course. But it’s boring. Tonight, after giving a lecture, I realized that I want to give symphonies, not lectures. Sound the opening theme, devel0p the antithesis, turn them both inside out, and bring all the different melodies and harmonies together in a fitting conclusion that returns to the main theme with a new depth, a power, and an intensity.
That’s the sort of writing that, when I am writing well, I enjoy the most. It weaves together several themes and explores the relationships between them, and attempts to bring clarity to the manifold nature of reality through that process.
Of course, symphonies are hard on the audience. In a world that values simplicity over all, the complexity can confuse more than clarify. It’s easy to get lost in the middle of the theme’s development, especially if you don’t know the genre.
But I for one want to write symphonies. It’s easy for this to degenerate into pointless rambling, but if the ideas are both true and deep, they can support and sustain exploration from various vantage points and perspectives. And that allows for a symphony-like structure to emerge through the lecture.
I didn’t get there tonight. Not sure I ever will. But that’s my goal. And I’m sorry if you find it boring.