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Seeking immortality

“Most books, like their authors, are born to die; of only a few books can it be said that death hath no dominion over them; they live, and their influence lives forever.”

~J. Swartz

Harper Lee: The literary one hit wonder. A woman who wrote what many consider the greatest novel of the 20th century and then never published another book.

Pose the question, “Why do you write?” to ten writers and I would venture a guess that eight of them would respond with, “because I can’t not write.”

But writing and having people read what you write isn’t the same thing, is it?

Perhaps the more honest answer to that question would be, “I write to be read. I want people to read what I write and tell me I’ve done it well.”

“I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.”
~Harper Lee, 1964

Ever since the enormous success of To Kill a Mockingbird, millions of people have collectively wondered why Harper Lee never published another book. It’s fairly well documented that Lee was writing a second novel, The Long Goodbye, when according to her agent at the time, “her pen froze”.

I’ve never given much thought to why Harper Lee never published another novel. I suspect she’s written more stories but has chosen not to share them. I have the utmost respect for her disinterest in future publication. There are currently two Harper Lee biographies available on Amazon, neither of them written with the cooperation of Lee or authorized by her.

*In a 2011 interview with the Daily Telegraph, Lee’s close friend Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts said that Lee is in an assisted-living facility, wheelchair bound, partially blind and deaf, and suffering from memory loss. Butts also said that Lee told him why she never wrote again:

“Two reasons: one, I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill A Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.”

Ah, to show that kind of restraint in a world that is constantly telling us what we have attained is never enough. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those rare books which has attained literary immortality. Its author’s recognition of this fact and her acknowledgment of that being enough puts her in the same category.

There is a skill and giftedness involved in saying what needs to be said in just the right way.

But perhaps what’s too often overlooked is the ability to know when you’ve said enough.

Why do you write?

*Source: Wikipedia.

An Old Man’s Theory (by Duane Scott)

image courtesy of

I won’t say much about today’s guest blogger except to say I came across his writing recently and was impressed that someone so young could so effectively communicate through the written word. I’ll give you a link to his new website at the end of this post, but in the meantime, please read about Duane Scott’s conversation with an older gentleman he met on the jobsite this week:

Recently, our company has been working at a church. Today, the general contractor called and said he would appreciate if we could put a few vent chutes in so they could start putting sheetrock on the ceiling. Having sent all the other crews to different jobs, the only remaining option was for me to do it.

As I began working, I fought back disgruntled thoughts about the inconvenience while fast becoming bored with the repetitive job. That was, until I noticed a peculiar man.

He wore blue Dickie coveralls and on his feet were black dress shoes, looking oddly out of place in the dusty environment. Construction workers bustled around him, hanging sheetrock and noisily moving their scaffolding. It seemed the old man hardly noticed the commotion, but continued to silently sweep the sheetrock dust to the corners.

We all worked along side each other for a few hours, and never did I hear the old man say a word. Curious, I wondered why he was on the job and decided he must be the father to the general manager.

When 4:00 rolled around, the cords were wrapped up, drills and saws were put in their places, and one by one the workers went home for the day. When they bid the old man goodbye, he only responded by the nod of his head.

I continued to staple vent chutes in the trusses and the old man continued to sweep silently. When I was almost finished, I asked him, “Do you work for the general manager?”

“No,” he replied, leaning against his broom. A grin appeared on his wrinkled face, exposing a few missing teeth. With enthusiasm, he said, “I’m a priest at this church.”

With renewed interest, I noticed the black robes he was wearing under the coveralls. I didn’t know what to say, so all I managed was, “Interesting.”

He smiled and said, “That, it is.”

Switching the subject, I said, “Looks like I’ll be back in the morning. I didn’t bring enough vent chutes to finish the job. I’ll be here early enough so I can get ahead of the other contractors. That way, they won’t have to wait on me.”

“That’s okay,” he grinned, “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t make a mistake or two.”

I laughed. Then jokingly I said, “By being a priest, I doubt you have that problem.”

“Look here buddy,” he chuckled, scolding and pointing a finger in my direction, “I’m still just as human as you are.”

I smiled, feeling a bit uncomfortable until he continued to talk. “I still make plenty of mistakes, and I still get into plenty of trouble.”

“A man your age surely doesn’t get into as much trouble as I do,” I said.

“Maybe not. But you should be glad you get into trouble.”

I raised an eyebrow and looked questioningly at him. Stifling a laugh, I said, “That’s an interesting theory. What makes you say getting into trouble is a good thing?”

“It’s all the trouble we get into in life that makes us realize how much we need God. Nobody could ever get into heaven if they never got into trouble.”

“So you are saying…” I asked, a bit confused, “that I should want to get into trouble?”

“Oh my,” he said, embarrassed, “That does sound like a… excuse my language… a hair-brained idea. What kind of priest am I?” He laughed, “That’s not really what I meant.” Eyeing me from head to toe, he continued, “You’re young. I have a feeling trouble will find you.”

I chuckled at the absurdity of the moment. It isn’t every day a priest looks me over and says I’m bound for trouble. More importantly, it isn’t every day a priest tells me getting into trouble is a good thing.

“It’s like this,” he continued, “God sits up there in His office, and everything you face in life comes across His desk for approval. And He will never put His signature on a trial or temptation that is too big for you to handle. Everything you face is only meant to bring you closer to Him.”

Saying goodbye to the elderly man, I marveled at the wisdom hidden behind his youthful eyes and mischievous grin. I admired his charismatic approach to life, and continued to think about the pearls of wisdom he had bestowed upon my young mind.

Some people curse their bad luck. Others become depressed by their misfortunes. Instead, maybe we should take the advice of the elderly man in the blue coveralls.

If trouble never found us, nor trials ever came, we would never need His grace… and it is only through His grace, that we are saved.

Yes, I like his theory.

-Duane Scott


To read more from Duane Scott, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @duane_scott.