“Many of us just have to recalibrate our understanding of what it means to live well. To craft beauty, to care for those who need us, to live honorably—surely these are the elements of a great life…”
Four paragraphs later he adds: “Greatness will not bite you on the ass.” Woodlief’s prose isn’t flashy – that would sabotage his argument -- but he has a gift for expressing memorable thoughts in plain language. He eschews the excuse-making language of psychology. He surprises us with wisdom – surprises, because the words are conversational and unaccompanied by ersatz drama. He doesn’t preach, and includes himself in all indictments. See “the hard work that is living well” and “…each of us is crafted to give something of ourselves to a world crying out for redemption.” One assumes this comes from experience, in living and writing.
Woodlief recalls the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30) and says “At least the faithless servant hid his talent under a rock. Where did I spend mine?” Dr. Johnson, forever doubting his gifts, often meditated on the parable. In a subtle reversal, he writes in “On the Death of Dr. Robert Levet”:
“His virtues walked their narrow round,
Nor made a pause, nor left a void;
And sure the eternal Master found
The single talent well employ’d.”