It’s laughable really that I’ve staked my career in religion journalism thus far on a claim that I can be more objective than those who have come before. More insightful, more decisive. That I will write from outside of situations, while remaining ever true to the people inside of them.
It’s laughable because I’ve spent my entire 22 years being drawn into things, coming alive through new experiences and finding my viewpoint irreversibly changed over and over again. Only a few months into this path toward a writing career, I can’t shake the sense that when I finally get the chance to interview the leader of a New Religious Movement, I’ll toss my notepad out the window and ask the community to make room for one more.
As much as I’ve always lived in the world of my mind, it is very rarely independently generated thought that I’m wrestling with. Instead, I’m like a sponge, soaking in the world around me and then processing it, picking up the pieces that feel beautiful and right and true and letting the rest wash down the drain.
I’m the picture of subjectivity, ever testing what I’ve gleaned from past encounters against the realities of this Monday or that Wednesday, ever biased by the sense that one day I will uniquely have it all figured out.
And yet, I persist with the idea that I come to new concepts with a clean slate. I pick up my assigned theological readings and I try to find what each author can offer for the greater good of all, paying little attention to the fact that what I actually seek is what each author offers to me.
Two days ago I began reading what I would classify as a dangerously good book. Good because it respectably addresses some of the issues I’ve been wrestling this semester as a student at Yale Divinity School; dangerous because I find myself self-satisfyingly nodding my head in vehement agreement with the author’s arguments at least once every five pages.
It’s called Money, Greed, and God and it threatens to make me entirely too comfortable with the idea that the chaos of the international economic system can be wrapped up neatly in one 215 page volume.
Neatness. Order. That’s what I’m really seeking, isn’t it? I want to claim objectivity because I truly desire to write outside of the mess of lectures, novels and casual conversations that have made me the messy product of a Liberal Arts education that I am today.
I have imagined becoming a headshot alongside real truth. I didn’t it want to be my truth; I wanted to write to the truth of every day life that could meet the need of all persons.
As Bill Goettler, who is essentially YDS’s version of career services, put it the first week of classes, all my objectivity talk was just an excuse for failing to claim a voice, for being scared to be defined by a particular outlook.
Now two and a half months into this voice seeking, I would describe it as tougher even than the inspirational quotes that litter the walls of my bedroom make it out to be. Though, just as these quotes affirm, it is certainly worth it.
I began this post by addressing my own grasping for objectivity in the face of my suffocating subjectivity. But a true voice, my own voice, is something separate than these concepts, though it may borrow from both. I seek to be objective in the sense that I give each new idea its due consideration, subjective in that the story I go on to tell will be particular to my own life.
I want to be a good writer some day, a journalist who creates content meant to accompany the daily sports reports and world news. I want also to be a particular voice, to be ever-learning but also anchored in past lessons, to bring fresh eyes to each situation but to stop being swept away by passing fads.
I want to have my own story to tell, but I want it to be one worth listening to.