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Writing with transcendence

Good writing, even if it seems simple, is never so. A lifetime of experience can go into the choice of a single word.

Transcendent writing takes good writing and infuses it with a sense of the divine.

The blog on this site, Daily News and Prayer, focuses on The Christian Science Monitor, which is always chasing, if not always reaching, transcendence, trying to marry good journalism and good writing with an understanding of God that lifts readers to a level where God becomes visible in healing. I hope in the future to feature or link to other outstanding writing that communicates the palpable beauty and power of divinity.

One of the qualities that turns good writing into transcendent writing is reflection. This is more than a writer reflecting on, or thinking deeply about, ideas, words and their meanings. Transcendent writing reflects, in some degree, the divine, as an imperfect mirror reflects an original with some semblance of faithfulness, using metaphors, juxtapositions, relationships, associations and rich silences to elucidate the phenomenon of divinity touching and transforming humanity. Transcendent writing is only as good as the writer’s ability to see God with some clarity and render the divine in images that make it as tangible as morning light.

Two of the best writers in English today, Marilynne Robinson and Tony Earley, show this kind of reflection in their writing. Robinson’s Gilead takes a subject infused with religion – her novel is essentially a long letter from an old minister to his young son – and portrays the Christly love and humility of a fallible man with a generous spirit. Earley’s novel Jim the Boy lifts the life of an ordinary boy in the rural South to a level of touching beauty that reveals the power of innocence to soften the sorrows and rough places of the world.

The Bible hints at the spirit of transcendent writing: “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” Transcendent writing scatters darkness with light, calms turmoil with peace, holds kindness in its silences. It operates beyond words but, when it is done well, it is as clear and unarguable as truth.