Having written about brain fog yesterday, it seems only fair to write about clarity today. What do we mean by it? Most people, I think, would reply that we mean the quality of being clear, intelligible, sharply defined. Some of us, however, particularly those accustomed to singing the Divine Office in Latin, might want to overlay such a definition of clarity with something others might find unexpected. The word clarus in Latin is associated with glory, more specifically the divine glory (cf the antiphons for Vespers on Holy Saturday). That takes clarity into another dimension. Just as I argued yesterday that the danger of the many varieties of brain fog is that we use them as an excuse for not making the effort to distinguish between true and false, right action and wrong, so I would argue today that striving for clarity infuses a very ordinary, everday activity with touches of divine glory.

I always pray before I write, and one of the things for which I ask in prayer is that what I write may be clear and truthful. That it should be truthful is, I hope, self-evidently necessary; but clarity isn’t always so easy to achieve and many might argue that it can appear ‘simplistic’ and  ‘unprofessional’. (I am thinking here of the turgid prose that too often masks the thought of the academic or expert while proclaiming to the rest of the world that he/she is one who knows — and is keeping the secret close.) In an age where speed-reading and headline-skimming are more and more the norm, I am conscious of how easy it is not to make one’s meaning plain; and even if one does make one’s meaning plain to one’s own satisfaction, there will always be someone who uses words and concepts differently and therefore understands differently. But that doesn’t invalidate the quest for clarity, or lessen its importance.

To be clear, to reflect something of the divine glory, to allow that glory to permeate, infsofar as one can, both thought and speech is not a trvial matter. It is the work of a lifetime — and it is work.


6 thoughts on “Clarity”

  1. May I say with great respect how much I value the clarity and quality of your work. So much religious writing is either insufferably smug or the modern equivalent of wondering how many angels could stand on the head of a pin. Your pieces are scholarly enough to inform and educate your readers (especially us non-Catholics) and they go straight to the point without waffling. If you weren’t on Facebook I would never have found your writing, and I would be the poorer for not reading it.

  2. I can’t claim to have reached for glory when writing, but I have learned to aspire for clarity. When I was working on official (government) correspondence I aimed always to answer every question accurately and clearly. Sometimes official language was difficult for lay people to understand – perhaps a bit like Latin – but it was incredibly important for the recipient that they got a full and accurate response. We tried to read our replies from the reader’s point of view, and that nearly always required a redraft or two before it was signed and sent. MP’s letters were treated with no less care, but they were sent back to the Minister’s Private Office for approval and signature. It would be good if everyone could treat social media particularly with real care.

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