I used to write books. Now, I write Facebooks. Somehow it is not the same.
There was a time when being sequestered in a room was not that difficult. When I wrote my first book there was nothing really on TV at 3 am. Netflix was not. There were no emails waiting, no tweets tweeting, no IPODS purring, no seductive flashing updates that remind you if your news is more than 15 minutes old. I could write relatively undisturbed except for the manic bouncing of my own thoughts.
Now wireless follows me like a stalker. Café, library, streetcorner, no place is free from the lurking server. Yes, I know I can turn it off. I also know that I can remove my fillings and have my fingernails extracted, but I am not about to do it any more than I will cut the ethereal lifeline to the world. After all, if I sit in a room to write something with a greater half-life than last nights dessert, I may miss the urgent news item that has a half life, well, of last night's dessert. You see - it is a conundrum.
So I write columns, Facebook posts (each blessed day), emails, sermons, but I am pushing the bolder of the book up the Sisyphean mountain with no discernible results. I keep in mind that Trollope, as he finished one of his massive, readable, charming novels, would roll in the paper to begin a new one. Good old Tweetless Trollope. Where have they gone, these titans of focus?
I remember when I opened the package containing my first book. It was a tribute to industry, the culmination of a dream. I waited for the heavens to open and greet this new child of the ancient lineage of literature. But it fell soft and silent as a contact lens on a pillow: A letter here, a review there, a parental grunt in acknowledgment. Now when I write something on the internet I can infuriate hundreds with a keystroke. Who would return to the impactless pages when you can write the blog today, post it tomorrow and talk about it the day after? In three days I have barely written the book's opening paragraph.
Still, in the question is the answer. The book is presumably one's best thoughts, as opposed to one's first thoughts. Unlike the SAT's, where they tell you to go with your first answer, in life it is often the second and third answer, the rephrasing, the revision carried out time and gain, that gives you the gem. In a world awash in magazines, internet sites and tweety-facebook-bloggy stuff, a good book is the matured product of a mind marinated in ideas. And the price is only sticking one's fingers in one's ears, turning one's eyes away from seductive siren-screens, and a temporary scorn for society, real or virtual.
So I will try, again. Although, to be honest, writing this was much more fun.
You can follow Rabbi Wolpe on Facebook.com/RabbiWolpe