Sacred Compass 4: Humor Me

This is part 4 of the “interview” I conducted with J. Brent Bill, author of Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment.

I have listed the question, as I sent it to him, in italics with an R. Then I have given his answer, marked with a B, and then my reply marked with an R but not in italics. Brent hasn’t seen this third part yet, but I hope to open up the conversation to you, my dear blog reader, to be part of this dialogue too. I can not promise that Brent Bill himself will answer your questions here – or even read them here – but I will try to continue the discussion if you’re interested.

As a final point to this introduction, I want to be clear that I’ve already read the whole book and I really liked it. I’ve already started recommending it to people in San Francisco. I commend it to your attention.

R: How do you decide when a flippant remark is helpful and when it is distracting from the main story?

B: I will say that I'm not sure I consider anything in final copy as flippant - every piece of writing in it is intentional. It may appear flippant -- but I am completely serious about including such things. Part of it is to keep the more conversational tone I strive for and another part is because that's part of my personality. I don't consider flippant to be frivolous -- I consider it a way of easing the tension from too much seriousness. Spiritual discernment is important business -- but we don’t always need to take it in dead earnestness. Such earnestness robs it of the reality of our lives -- including the absurd or flippant. Does that make any sense? Finding a balance is important. My first draft, for example, of Holy Silence, was sent back because it was too serious -- my personality (which was one reason I was asked to write the book) wasn't evident. And "asides" are part of my conversational pattern and personality. So it seems important to include them and I always hope readers won't find them distracting -- while I'm well aware that some people will. It's the risk an author takes if he or she really wants to be self-revealing, I think. I think, after years of "writing safe", that it's worth the risk, even if some readers don't care for it. I do pray that I don't offend anybody --that would be of concern to me.

R: This is the question that did rub Brent the wrong way. I think it was the word “flippant.” Which is actually more my word for the kinds of things I tend to say when I’m nervous than a real description of anything in the book. I often have more wry humor in my first drafts, and then edit them out, because sarcasm and irony don’t really work well online. I was impressed with Brent’s way of handling this in his book. But I guess the real answer is editing. I’m hoping that in my forties, I will develop a keener sense of editing between my brain and my mouth.

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