Where The Light Divides

 In Books, Culture, Duty, Faith, Fred's Blog, People, Philanthropy, Story, Teaching, Truth, Uncategorized

Listen to “Where the Light Divides” by Fred Smith

 

Almost a decade ago I was asked if I would consider sharing what I am thinking: “People are curious about why you think the way you do.”  

Whether it was false humility, fear, or an aversion to being put in a box, I declined. Two years later, I changed my mind when I remembered the old saying that you don’t know what you think until you have written it down. It was not out of a desire to share that I started writing a weekly blog but, selfishly perhaps, a desire to know for myself what I thought. Just as Thoreau went to the woods to live deliberately, I started to write deliberately to discover what I believed. 

While I had an interest in so much, I had never been disciplined about a point of view. I suppose that is why the structure of this book is not organized by a single theme but around topics that have attracted me either through my work at The Gathering, teaching Sunday School, or just general curiosity. Whether it is philanthropy, society, family, meaning, and purpose, or faith, I felt an urgency about writing. Of course, it mattered if people read it but that was not the initial purpose. I did not write to influence or shape opinion. 

It was not telling an audience what I thought as much as it was explaining myself to me! Annie Dillard wrote, 

“Write as if you were dying. At the same time assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients.  That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?”

For someone brought up in the era captured by the words, “If you died tonight do you know where you would go?” Annie Dillard’s words are intimidating. Yes, I know where I would go if I were to die tonight. I have known since going forward in that small Baptist church in Kentucky when I was a boy. What I have not known is what I would write if I were dying soon. What would I want to say to you reading this if I realized fully the grim but obvious truth that you are dying as well? What could I say to you that would not be trivial? Would I preach or comfort? Would I spin a tale to lighten your burden? Maybe I would try to say something profoundly deep? Probably not any of these. But I do take the question seriously. 

If this is my last time to speak to you and your last time to read it, what do I want to say to you that will not be trivial? 

Often, I will ask pastors and teachers what people say to them when they leave the sanctuary or classroom. I do that because I believe there are patterns of response over the course of years to which we should pay attention. It is not so much the content but the impression that remains. 

Some say, “That convicted me.” Others say, “That touched me.” For me, there has consistently been only one remark: “I never thought about it that way before.”  

There was a time when I wanted to convict or touch, but I settled into my calling as one who looks at things differently. My mother always told me to look both ways before crossing the street and I’ve carried that with me into life. Look at the world both ways. That doesn’t need to mean strangely or contrived. For me, Emily Dickinson says it well, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant. The Truth must dazzle gradually or every man be blind.”  

If this book is about anything it is telling the truth in a way that does not blind but simply turns the prism a degree or two for seeing differently. It’s not about my life but seeing the world for a time through my eyes. It is about the prism through which the light divides. A point of view.  

 I’ve included a few photos of mine. They are not here to make or illustrate a point. They are here because I like them.

Some may say, as I have when reading other authors for the first time, “I have thought the very same thing but never said it quite that way,” and for that alone, I would be grateful. It will not dazzle but it may delight. It may give someone permission to think about their world with a twist and, like me, wonder if there isn’t more to the story than I see the first time – or the hundredth. If there is a theme it is this angle from which I see things. It is my slant. Looking both ways.

I did not come to trust this slant early in life. It was odd or out of place many times. It’s probably time to grow up and say, deliberately, what I am thinking and take responsibility for it.

So, here is what I have come to so far. It is why I went to the woods and began to write.

You can order “Where The Light Divides” on Amazon now.

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Showing 20 comments
  • Avatar
    Dave B
    Reply

    Congrats Fred! Even for a disciplined writer, the completion of a book is no small task. Just ordered 😉

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Dave. I fulfilled a promise and that feels good.

    • Avatar
      S. Bergen
      Reply

      Why is it that you are so easy to love? We have never met. Absent is your physical being. Body language, interaction with others are left unspoken. I know you only by the words you write, and yet the light that divides us is not absolute. I read your blog and still feel illuminated. There’s something more here than “telling it slant”.

      • Fred Smith
        Fred Smith
        Reply

        Well, not everyone would agree with you on that one! Thank you for the encouragement.

  • Avatar
    Susan Jackson
    Reply

    Fred, I just ordered my copy of your book. I will be bringing it to you for an autograph.🙂

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Susan. I have a brand new Sharpie waiting for you.

  • Avatar
    Robert
    Reply

    Fred – congratulations on the publication of Where the Light Divides! I look forward to dipping into it this weekend.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you! The good thing about the structure is there is none so you can dip in anywhere you want and not have missed anything.

  • Avatar
    Dr. David Galloway
    Reply

    Congratulations, The blog provided a structure by which to tame your lion. I have always enjoyed your slant, although never as much as your laugh, which I was blessed to share for a rich time in my life. I give thanks for you and your witness of Spirit. Blessings in this next chapter.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, David. I had to approve this comment before anyone could see it. That’s the most control I have had over you in, like, forever.

  • Avatar
    Heidi Getsch Carls
    Reply

    Congratulations Fred! I am looking forward to reading it. You’ve succeeded here, many times, helping me think about something differently. I appreciate you taking the time to do that.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Heidi. If you don’t see anything you like there is a money back guarantee.

  • Avatar
    Jack Modesett
    Reply

    Assuming my free, autographed copy has been lost in the mail, I have ordered one thru Amazon, using Points to reduce the cost to zero. I’m sure it will be worth every penny.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Jack. I am posting your comment as a cautionary tale for others.

  • Avatar
    Andrew Tyndale
    Reply

    I’m going to miss your refreshing take on so many things.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Andrew. I will keep writing. I just will not be the President.

  • Avatar
    John Wierick
    Reply

    Just ordered the newest work from one of my favorite writers and thinkers… you! Congratulations, Fred. Can’t wait to dive in.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, John! I will appreciate your professional opinion!

  • Avatar
    Cynthia Beal
    Reply

    Hi Fred! I just ordered your book. I have read some of your blog and all I read touched me. My long time friend, Gayle Carpenter, told me of the book. I worked for Leadership Network for 13 years and loved it. I look forward to reading the book!!!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Cynthia! I greatly appreciate your ordering the book – and reading it! You’ll see there is no particular order so you can jump around and skip over anything that doesn’t interest you. However, if you do read something and want to respond that would be great!

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