Saturday, January 17, 2009

Academic Writing: Gift of the Holy Spirit

I believe that my recovery from a punishing Fall semester of doctoral education is progressing nicely. In preparation for the Spring semester as well as the comprehensive paper that I have to complete by August, I've been reading a lot about academic or scholarly writing. I'm reminded of a couple of comments attributed to 'Abdu'l-Baha about art:

"'Abdu'l-Bahá said...: "All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When this light shines through the mind of a musician, it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. When the Light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, he produces marvellous pictures. These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose, when showing forth the praise of God."
(Lady Blomfield, "The Chosen Highway" (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1954), p. 167) [23]

"It is natural for the heart and spirit to take pleasure and enjoyment in all things that show forth symmetry, harmony, and perfection. For instance: a beautiful house, a well designed garden, a symmetrical line, a graceful motion, a well written book, pleasing garments -- in fact, all things that have in themselves grace or beauty are pleasing to the heart and spirit-- therefore, it is most certain that a true voice causes deep pleasure."
('Abdu'l-Bahá's words to Mrs. Mary L. Lucas, as quoted in "A Brief Account of My Visit to Acca" (Chicago: Bahá'í Publishing Society, 1905), pp. 11-14) [24]

It is inspiring to think that my writing as a social scientist is a gift of the Holy Spirit and that a well designed research proposal, an articulate presentation and discussion of findings, a creatively placed reference to empirical literature or even a table full of descriptive statistics can be beautiful. Part of what I've learning about academic writing is that it potentially the sweetest fruit of a scholars work. It is perhaps this sweetness that is part of what 'Abdu'l-Baha is referring to we He glorifies research:

"All blessings are divine in origin, but none can be compared with this power of intellectual investigation and research, which is an eternal gift producing fruits of unending delight."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 49)

I'll need to keep this is mind on those long nights hunched over my laptop!