May 11, 2003

A curious question directed at me today: did I consider what I wrote to be 'good'? I answered that I could not be the person to answer that; and as I did not know if anyone else reads what I write, a critical element of communication might well be missing in any case. Without a reader, qualitative judgements of the subject and style of communication have rather less meaning even than usual.

I am especially terrible at returning personal letters. (It is not helping, now, that I have no access to my usual e-mail address.) It is not that I do not consider them important. Quite the contrary. I have pages and pages of draughts awaiting sendings which may never happen. They do not say quite what I am trying to translate into words. They do not address quite what I understand by the received letter and what I have of knowledge of its sender. They sit aside and linger as I seek the translations and can find only approximations.

For a few years, among other work, I ran a medical academic journal. The strict mensual format demanded deadlines, and so -- in that context at least -- I began to learn the balance between attempted perfection of expression and actually sharing its outcomes. Communication must consist both of translation of thought (as nearly as possible) and of reasonably immediate response. To leave an answer too long aside can be worse than not having answered at all.

Knowing and doing are two very different things. There remains room for improvement, here ... quite a bit of room in fact. Down with the pedestal! Standing with my own two feet on the earth is challenge enough!

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