Great hacks of our time (7): Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan is such a legend these days in the American media in particular, that this there is very little I can add to the praise that is routinely lavished on her, most recently with her latest collected writings The Time of Our Lives. Aside from her newspaper work, she has a terrific website.


One of her masterpieces is the short book on Pope John Paul II, which is a heartfelt and almost painful examination of that extraordinary man. She loves literature and really can write. Which brings me to the point of this short post. Here is the almost perfect description of her craft, which undoubtedly applies to blogging:

“When you’re writing you give the creative part of your brain full sway, you let it dominate, you don’t let your critical side mug it or slow it down. Later, in editing, you bring your critical self to the fore, question the assertion, kill the aside. But the point is you give your writing everything you have at the moment you’re doing it and rethink when the page has cooled.”

Good advice, and here is the lady herself applying that skill to a beautiful existential reflection, from 1992:

I think we have lost the old knowledge that happiness is overrated — that, in a way, life is overrated. We have lost, somehow, a sense of mystery — about us, our purpose, our meaning, our role. Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generations of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such unhappiness. The reason: If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness — if that is what you believe, then you are not disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you are despairing.

Prose of such quality is a very rare gift.



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