Monday, January 7, 2013

The Importance of Questioning Importance

I decided a while ago that I would only do things that are really important or really fun.

– Writer Lawrence Wright via profile published in NYT 

Well and good, Larry. But how do you determine what is really important?

Fun requires no interrogation. Fun makes us laugh, feel light and bright and free. It is the ultimate in Buddha via Oprah directive to be in the moment. The fun-maker experiences the fun in the doing, and in its afterglow. One may not be certain of an opportunity's fun-factor prior to participation – but careful observation of self and others gives pretty good odds going in.

Can't say the same for important. Let us count a few epistemological conundrums.

How do you know it's important before embarking? You must have a categorical understanding of important topics. I'm guessing Mr. Wright has such a list with big headers like Justice, Truth, Religion, War, Bravery. If the project falls under one of the eternal battles, it could be deemed important.

But why? If it is an eternal battle, it will by definition not be won or lost by blasting another book into the canon. So, is simply being in the fight what makes it important?

Important to the writer, sure. Important to the reader – if the writer does well – of course. Important to Society or The Way Things Will Happen From Now On? Maybe not. 

I envy Wright's (assumed) belief that something important to him will be important to readers. And the attendant belief that shared importance is enough.