After spending some time wandering, it was time to come back.
It’s very easy to romanticize going wherever the winds take me, and there can be value in that sometimes. At the same time, the why matters. While I’d hoped to get some clarity about things, and in particular about where I want to be going, what I’ve come to realize is that I was actually avoiding choice.
It’s been a busy few weeks. I’m taking a couple classes at a seminary (online, thankfully), and they’re certainly keeping me occupied. So far it’s been the good kind of busy, though, and I’m definitely enjoying what I’m learning.
I’ve been sitting about lately watching the world be slightly more on fire and trying to figure out how I should feel about it all. It’s not that I’m wondering whether to feel bad, it’s more some questions about what kind of bad I should feel and what, if anything, I should do about it. I don’t have any real illusions about my individual influence over the world, but at the same time simply accepting something bad as inevitable is a tool the alt-right likes to use to avoid thinking about making change (or to avoid having to).
(A non-review of Prompt and Utter Destruction by J. Samuel Walker)
I had a conversation on Discord awhile ago, and somehow the issue of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came up. I repeated what I had always heard to be true, namely that the use of the bomb was done to prevent an invasion of the Japanese mainland that would’ve cost even more lives, both American and Japanese. This is certainly how Truman et al. portrayed the decision after the fact. But one of my compatriots explained that the historical consensus now is that basically none of this is true. He went on to recommend Prompt and Utter Destruction by J. Samuel Walker, which I have now read.
One of the abilities that humans generally take for granted is pattern matching—the ability to see how things fit together. And of course, part of this must necessarily be the ability to see what sticks out. This is what “salient” means: to stick out, to draw one’s attention.
There’s a scene from The Wire that has stuck with me since I first saw it. Well, more than one actually, but the one I’m thinking about right now is when a character who goes by “Bubbles” is meeting with his Narcotics Anonymous sponsor. The sponsor, played by Steve Earle, tells Bubbles that quitting drugs is the easy part, but that after that “comes life.”
Once upon a time, I thought that if I got sufficiently outraged on Facebook, this would make a difference. And maybe there is something to be said for trying to shift the Overton Window for the small group of people who used to read what I would write. (I say “used to” since I haven’t had an active Facebook account since sometime in 2015.) After all, we don’t dismiss columnists as pointless or not doing anything important, or at least not the whole class of them. Individual ones may be another story.
It's a weird sort of serendipity that I wrote about wondering what “great enough” meant, only for Freddie deBoer to come along and do the same thing much better. In his most recent essay, he bemoans the ironic distance that contemporary educated people effect, especially those who hold themselves out as writers. It's a longing for unironic passion for the craft, for wanting to say something and thinking you have something worth saying.
As I've written about before, I often struggle with absolutist thinking when it comes to valuing something. It's especially prevalent when it comes to myself; I tend to be a lot more charitable with other people.
One of my primary functions in the Bureaucracy is to communicate Its intentions and decision-making. I’m not quite in public relations, but there is that element to what I do. It involves a lot of writing, as thankfully I don’t have to actually talk to anyone outside of my office.