This is a wonderful word. It denotes something wise, whether a person or some advice or a course of action. It his its roots in the word “sage”. I’m not talking about the plant which was sung about by Simon & Garfunkel, but a wise person. A sage is someone who isn’t seeking wisdom, but who has already found it, someone whom we can learn from.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever be considered a sage, but I do aspire to be one. And that’s one of the reasons I write; for the act of putting ideas that are merely in my head down onto paper somehow helps me feel them out, makes them more concrete or accessible.
As I’ve mentioned before, writing has similarities with architecture in that there is form and structure to even the most seemingly random thoughts. But sometimes you have to think really hard to find them.
I love stories that don’t put the cookies on the bottom shelf. Those are the ones that make you work for the treasures within their pages and a second or a third reading (or even more) is sometimes required to truly grasp what they are getting at. Books that teach you wisdom in a quick and easy way are the exception, I find, and they often do not stay with you in the same way as books that make you think a little. In a world were many readers (perhaps most) prefer to be merely entertained or to escape for a few hours, such books may not be preferred, but the reader is so much poorer for having missed the view that can only be seen from the mountain’s summit. Yes, it is an arduous climb, but in the end it’s worth it.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a book or reading a more easily accessible story, but if the story offers little in the way of wisdom, if it does not challenge your mind or at least shore it up in the ways of truth, then you will leave its pages either the same person you were before you read it or perhaps even worse. The reason for this is because you will have, for those few hours, been conditioning your mind to settle for less, perhaps even to become blind to what really matters, to what is really important. You were eating Turkish Delight. And as tasty as it might have been it could never sustain you.
Let a faithful author guide a child’s imagination, and that child will learn (and feel) what it is like to be courageous, to stand against evil, to love what is lovely and honor what is honorable. Hand them the wrong book, and they could learn to numb their own conscience, to gratify and feed darker impulses. The wrong stories catechize imaginations with sickness.
The problem with feasting on a diet of Turkish Delight is that over time we begin to lose our ability to distinguish between darkness and light. We have such a wonderful time with Pinocchio on Pleasure Island that even if we are offered a tale from a Tolkien, a Lewis, or a Dostoyevsky, we might find it dull or we might like it for all the wrong reasons.
As N.D. Wilson urges us in his article, we need to be able to think critically about the stories we read, not as some pedantic, scholarly pursuit, but as human beings drowning in a sea of experience who desperately need a breath of truth for our suffocating souls.
So when you read, enjoy the wonder, the awe, the imagination of the stories you drink in, but be sagacious as you travel down your bookish road and do not lose sight of the light of truth in your literary journeys.