Word One

T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) and Christopher Wren (architect of St. Pauls) went to All Souls College at Oxford, and like their many illustrious classmates who have attended this elite graduate school going back to 1438, they took a really hard test just to get in.  Often it included the famed one word essay:  you were given the word and expect to go from there.

In fact, some say it’s just about the hardest test in the world, spanning two days where one writes on one’s area of expertise, but also on general subjects—and from that single word from which one was expected to craft an essay of such dazzling breadth, depth and import that All Souls would embrace you as one of them.  Other Monty Pythonesque questions such as, “Does the moral character of an orgy change when the participants wear Nazi uniforms?” challenge the writer to kink and unkink the neural networks.  [One word answer:   Mu.]

A recent NY Times article marked the death of the one word essay.  However, this potentially nerdy exercise in reading, writing and thinking captured my fancy, as it did many readers of the New York Times who made it the most emailed article for a couple of days (“Oxford Tradition Comes to This: ‘Death’ (Expound”).  I intuit that this is because all of us feel that we have something to say (if we only could find the words) and much to contribute (if only we could know exactly what).  There’s something about the notion of seven years dining with, studying with and talking with the gifted and rarified illuminati that could inspire even us to believe that after this uber-validation, we would trust that we were smart and trust that we had a role to play, and that then we could then be as elegant, pupose-filled and transcendent as old T.E. Lawrence himself.

At some level I think it is our vast hunger for depth, meaning and purpose (or at least a good chat about these things) that stands in counterpoint to the disconnected and surface dwelling level of most discourse and which fires the wheels of our imagination to contemplate sitting for exams at Oxford.

And yet I also realized that in Momalom’s recent five-for-ten, a whole bunch of us sponateously crafted essays in response to single words (like “yes” and “courage”), and yet we went Oxford one better in having no one fail this exam.  Instead, the collective collection of essays and comments stands like some super-essay, showing range, depth, diversity, compassion, humor authenticity and so much more.  Thus, in spirit, the collective gains virtual admission to a virtual All Souls; the trick is in realizing that we are all the illuminati we need right now, and that by chatting and learning and sharing we are educating ourselves to our next level of consciousness, of potential Self-expression and of empowering ourselves, and each other, to trust that we can and do make a difference.

Wren built St. Pauls, but that’s so brick and mortar, so 1710; we build virtual and collective space and our brilliance lies not in us individually, but in us as a network of All Souls Who Care.

The one word essay at All Souls College is dead; long live the one word essay in the bowl of our collective soul.

So, here’s to writing for the sake of writing, and to connecting in the bargain—in the service of all our collective children.

Namaste, Bruce

Advertisements

Tags: ,

4 Responses to “Word One”

  1. BigLittleWolf Says:

    This one brought out my very own little Mona Lisa smile.

    “The one word essay at All Souls College is dead; long live the one word essay in the bowl of our collective soul.

    So, here’s to writing for the sake of writing, and to connecting in the bargain—in the service of all our collective children.”

    And the child in each of us? May we all be so fortunate as to retain him or her.

  2. Kelly Says:

    I know this is off topic — but wouldn’t the 5-for-10 series make an amazing book? A selection of essays on each topic with each topic being it’s own section. I would buy it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s