If the profession-as-disease theory that John and I had developed is correct, both journalists and academics would appear to have ingeniously turned lemons into lemonade for themselves personally, by transforming personal failings into professional strengths. Each found for themselves a profession that rewards personal traits that in other realms of life would be handicaps.
The parallel goes even deeper. Probably both the lifelong search for redeeming facts about society by journalists, and the search for redeeming theories of society by those of an academic bent, arose to compensate for an original loss, and a painful feeling therefore of lack or rupture or rift, caused by a sweetness originally withheld. To heal that rift the journalist went outward into the world in search of facts, while academics went inward towards theories.
Possibly each of these searches is but a version of the same essential search, which is to finally replace the sweetness originally withheld. And, quite possibly, each version of the search is based on a similar misunderstanding, one might even say a delusion which is that both might believe his search is ultimate and superior to the other.
It may well be that if both the journalist and the academic were truly rigorous in their observations of themselves and the world, they would find that neither facts nor theories in any way resemble that original sweetness that they miss, and therefore can never heal the gap. Facts in themselves, after all, are nothing but dots on a graph, data points of a chaos. And theories are nothing but lascivious modes of distraction, a dawdling in Plato's heaven while the specific, heavy, dreadful work of the world awaits below.
What is my guess as to the true nature of the original sweetness withheld?
Love, is my guess. I'd further suggest that journalism -- to speak from my corner of the discussion -- would get a lot better if journalists paused for a moment to consider love as an elixir of social healing, and its rightful place inside their narratives, as an ingredient mixed perhaps right into scene and character and plot and voice, as catalytic chemical primer that would bind all the elements of story into tales of news and drama that were at all at once compelling, trustworthy, and socially of use.
I do not refer to love in the gushy ''in love'' Hollywood sense, but rather to love as a muscled, active principle, an intelligent coursing force that we all very naturally know. It is a love whose action upon life works like blood, or intention, or prayer, or the void of space, or the oxygen-bearing layer of atmosphere that thinly surrounds our earth.
It's love as love has been defined by the greatest hearts of humanity in their wrestling with life -- love as Plato's ''eros'' or Christ's ''agape'' or Buddha's ''sympathetic joy.'' It's a love that's both a fact and a theory and beyond both, the love that every one of us, no matter how mighty or privileged or blessed we are, or how occupied by pressing practical duties, must humbly acknowledge is the very root of existence and therefore is the deepest cause of those specific expressions we come to know as ''me,'' and ''my accomplishments,'' and ''my daily life.''
No matter the distance between such personal minutiae and the greatness (or perhaps it is the humility or even the voidness) of this love, we all know this is our job. We need to connect the dots between our smallness and this greatness from time to time, or else we become untethered, meaningless, anxiety-ridden, absurd. And at the local level, lacking love or meaning, we will also naturally become cruel, and our lives will be a suffering hell. Our academic papers will be nonsense and our journalism, crap.
So in this way we circle back to the practical need to understand the muscled, coursing, embracing, actual force of love for the sake of own lives and professions -- in this case as academics in search of perfect theories, or journalists seeking perfect facts.