Email: The Art of Writing (2.1.2021)

Dear Gilliian

Clarity and insight (this will make sense when you finish reading). You exhibit a cultural habit that is probably instinctive but manifests regularly. Ancient Chinese wisdom texts are written quite often in a very formulaic manner – and for good reason – as this type of text represents a congealment of a) human knowledge premised upon a spiritual or physical interpretation of ‘reality’, and b) the means to preserve, communicate and convey this knowledge through the medium of the written word. There are two functions unfolding simultaneously – the structure of Chinese writing and reading coupled with a refined conveyance of the subject at hand. For sake of context, the Five Classics and Four Books are examples of this, but there are many others. Now, the ancient scholars were trained to use the Chinese language in a particular manner. This methodology ensured a high standard of literature that brought order to the outer world through the compilation of lists of phenomena – lists that correctly and succinctly reflected the material world and the hidden spiritual forces that operate behind the scenes. Paragraphs contained identical lines of exact numbers of ideograms. The structure remains the same throughout – with only the individual ideograms changing to indicate shifts in meaning. Chinese scholars where trained to begin the first line of each text with a single ideogram that expressed the total meaning of the text. This was to be followed usually by four other ideograms that elaborate on this deep understanding – all in the first line. Here’s the point of this email – when you write your best emails (irrespective of content), your first line often exhibits the entire meaning of your communication – which you then elaborate upon as you make your case. I would say this is a Chinese cultural habit formulated through centuries of Confucian scholarship of your ancestors in China – and manifested through your modern analytical skills acquired in the West. We are martyrs to our genes.  

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