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A Conversation with My Father about Keeping a Diary

The following dialogue is an imagined conversation with my father and does not represent my actual father’s views.

Daughter: I’ve been contemplating something for a while now and am not sure what I think I should do. I’d appreciate your advice if you have any.

Dad: If I have any to give, it’s yours. What are you thinking about?

Daughter: Whether I should return to keeping a diary. I’ve kept one consistently for most of my life but have allowed it to fade out in recent years.

Dad: Why is this a question? Why wouldn’t you do it?

Daughter: Well, I’m not entirely sure. I think there are some real concerns with diaries.

Dad: What are they?

Daughter: For one, I think there is a necessary feedback loop in community that you don’t receive when you write for yourself. Secret diaries can enable and strengthen your negative traits – the side of yourself that you don’t share with your community because they rightly tell you those qualities are not welcome or fitting. I think we need that; we need the community to offer us the appropriate response to our darker side.

Dad: That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of that before. What do you mean by “darker side”; what kinds of things do you typically write?

Daughter: Oh, I write absolutely everything: my fears, questions, dreams, desires, prayers, even letters to people saying the things I can’t say to them in real life. My diary is not an expression of my daily life and events but an embodiment of both my conscious and subconscious mind. It’s the fullest expression of my mind that I am aware of. My concern, then, is that I may embody the negative/unhealthy side of myself along with the good, which life creates a natural filter for.

Dad: Is embodying the negative aspects of your mind a necessary quality of keeping a secret diary or an accidental quality? In other words, is that a temptation you could and likely would avoid?

Daughter: I doubt it. When I keep a diary, I don’t judge my ideas or expression, I just write and then after writing, see what comes out, and it often surprises me. If I have to subjugate my darker side, I have to do the work of the community myself as I write. I am not that good of a multi-tasker.

Dad: Then I suppose the question is whether expressing all your thoughts, good and evil, is an evil?

Daughter: Yes, that is my conundrum. How do I know what ought to be embodied?

Dad: Who knows! Although, I suppose it’s safe to say God does since he became incarnate. Let’s think this through. What do you hold to be true about the incarnation?

Daughter: That Christ was the Word, the Logos, and as the Logos he created. And the Logos is always creating just as words are always creating.

Dad: Interesting. What are the implications of that?

Daughter: Well, the Logos is also truth. It can be nothing else. And when Christ created he brought order to chaos, so I think it follows that truth brings order. I also think it follows then that for us to bring life and order to our lives, we must begin by speaking truth.

Dad: Let’s think about that more. What is the value in speaking truth?

Daughter: It orients us rightly to reality because the world is created by one Christ, so it must, by nature, be unified, good, and true. So if we speak truth we partake in reality rightly.

Dad: Does it do anything else?

Daughter: It reminds us that there is something higher than us, that we don’t get to create and determine truth.

Dad: Interesting! Okay, I agree with you that this is true of speaking truth generally, but what about in the particular instance of keeping a diary?

Daughter: This is where I’m not sure, since we can write whatever we want and never have anything real to compare it against to see if we have spoken the truth.

Dad: The truth about what?

Daughter: Well, earlier I mentioned writing about desires, fears, dreams, etc.

Dad: Is it possible to speak those things and be lying?

Daughter: Yes. I can lie to myself about what I fear. In fact, I frequently do.

Dad: How do you know that?

Daughter: Usually through remembering my fears and meditating on them.

Dad: I’m not sure what you mean. Can you offer an example?

Daughter: Sure. The other day I was flying on an airplane and thought to myself that it’s silly that I’m afraid of death. I decided to prod that thought for a bit in the midst of turbulence, and I noted that once I acknowledged this a sane fear, it wasn’t the real fear I have. My real fear is chaos. I fear that in death, no matter how loving and good God is, I will only be saved from the chaos of oblivion if He reaches in and takes me out. But then I realized this fear doesn’t align with my presuppositions. Generally, in order to test all assertions, I presuppose the unity, harmony, goodness, and beauty of existence, and especially its essential victory over chaos. Yet, in facing oblivion, I reject this belief without even considering it, thinking instead that God has to reach in and take me out of chaos (which assumes its ultimate existence). So ultimately, I fear that chaos is stronger than order.

Dad: Are you saying that writing out your best estimations of truth allows you to refine that truth into something more aligned with reality by comparing it to known truths?

Daughter: Yes, I suppose I am.

Dad: Do you think one has to consciously do this, or the act of writing in a diary will do it for them?

Daughter: It seems possible to me that the act of writing in the diary is the act of testing truth. As long as honesty is the goal – which is the very reason it’s private – we are practicing relating to Logos, to word and truth, and seeing where we fit in with that. I suppose, then, we are participating as sub-creators in the incarnation of the Logos. By which I mean, we throw up all we have on the page and see what we can order into a narrative. That which becomes part of the narrative whole sticks, as it were. That which doesn’t we laugh at and ignore when we re-read what we’ve written, whether that day or years later. We take our own lives and thoughts and hold them up before truth and beauty and see what can withstand that fire.

Dad: So, is that something you want to do regularly?

Daughter: Absolutely. I want to be practiced in knowing and loving truth. I imagine that would help me become more like Truth itself.

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