“All that I have written seems to me as so much straw.”
No, these aren’t the words of a modern blogger. They came from St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), without question one of the greatest intellects history has known.
How brilliant was Aquinas?
He conducted quodlibetal disputations, in which a gathered crowd at the university could hurl out questions or objections on any topic whatsoever and the master (Aquinas) would have to answer them.
In composing some of his works, he used to dictate to three or four secretaries on various subjects at the same time.
Few thinkers have had as much influence on the Western Tradition as Aquinas. According to Aquinas scholar Romanus Cessario, his voluminous writings have “influenced nearly every field of human learning.”
And yet, near the end of his life, after having a mystical experience, he said to his secretary Reginald, “All that I have written seems to me as so much straw.”
I think this account of Aquinas offers an important reminder for all of us. The work we currently do may be necessary, and it may do some good for people. But it’s not the most important thing, as countless others have discovered only later in life. For, as each of us near death, the work that presently consumes our thoughts and cares will most likely seem less significant, and that which we give only partial attention now will appear worthy of our full attention.