Write In Between

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Writer's Wednesday - Peggy Noonan

As you grow older and life itself becomes more elaborate and complex, you find yourself using simpler words. And this is not only because your brain cells are dying. It is also, for some of us, because you have grown used to life, even comfortable with it, and understand that it comes down to essentials, that the big things count and the rest is commentary, and that way deep down in the heart of one's life's extraordinary complexity is... extraordinary simplicity.

I think that to achieve true adulthood is to understand the simplicity of things. We're locked in a funny arc, most of us, in terms of what we know. When you are goony and fourteen years old you think the most important thing in life is love. Then you mature, become more sober and thoughtful, and realize the most important thing in life is achieving, leaving your mark--making breakthroughs in the field of science, or winning an Academy Award in recognition of a serious body of work, or creating security for yourself and your family through having a good house and sending your kids to good schools.

And then you get old and realize... the most important thing in life is love. Giving love to others and receiving it from God. All the rest, the sober thoughtful things, are good and constructive... but love is the thing. The rest is just more or less what you were doing between fourteen and wisdom.

The language of love is simple, it is simplicity itself. The great novelist Edith Wharton noted this when she talked about romantic love. She said that no matter what the gift of the writer, whether genius or dunce, the language of the love letters is always the same:
"I love you, I love you, my darling, you are so wonderful..."

The language of love is simple because love is big. And big things are best said, are almost always said, in small words.

----Peggy Noonan, On Speaking Well, Harper Collins, 1999.

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